The Harlem Renaissance

The Harlem Renaissance, considered to be the rebirth of African American arts, shaped the status of African Americans as it is today. The Harlem Renaissance (also known as the "New Negro Movement”) was a cultural movement centered in the Harlem neighborhood in New York City.


While the movement is officially said to have started in the 1920s, it was a result of a chain of events that started long before the actual movement. The African Americans had spent centuries enduring slavery and torment. This began to change during the Reconstruction Era; when the emancipated African Americans began to strive for their rights. However living in the south later became increasingly hard, and thus, the migration of African Americans to the North began with hopes of a living a better life.

The Harlem Renaissance movement was a result of the memories of the results, both good and bad, in the Reconstruction in the post-Civil War era. They sought a better standard of living and a relief from the racism they faced. The migration to the North had not been as positive as they had hoped. While the legal system did was not obstructionist toward their rights, the general white populace was prejudice and bitter.

Harlem was a destination for migrants in the early 20th century and became an African-American neighborhood as a result. WW1 led to a halt in migration of laborers from Europe while The Great Migration led to a huge amount of African Americans coming to North American cities such as; Chicago, Philadelphia, Detroit, and New York. Despite this influx and increased popularity of Negro culture, white racism continued. Instead of allowing this to discourage them, it ignited a deep cultural pride that became known as the Harlem Renaissance.

The Movement

It was a literary, artistic movement which sparked a new cultural identity for blacks. Alain Locke described the movement as “Negro expression and self-determination” through the use of art.

The Renaissance consisted of both literature and visual arts, though it excluded jazz. The publishing industry was fueled by white fascination of Harlem, which led to them seeking out and publishing black writers.

The movement influenced generations of black writers in the future. However, after its decline in the following the Great Depression in the 1930s, it was largely ignored. Despite this the Harlem Renaissance not only led to an eruption of cultural and sociological level but also refined the world’s view of African Americans. The progress of the movement resulted in a self-determination and became a point reference in the African American community; helping them to expand their intellectual and social contacts all over the world, and take part in the world’s events.

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