1919-1930 upon returning from distinguished service in WWI, some blacks saw the period as an opportunity to raise the status of blacks to the next level. A flourishing of art, literature and music came about in Harlem. W.E.B. Du Bois was a major leader of this community. Langston Hughes an author drawn there to participate. Duke Ellington rose to prominence in the Cotton Club. It was a bright chapter in African American history.

People who got their start from the Harlem Renaissance include:

Source: http://www.unc.edu/courses/eng81br1/harlem.html http://www.nku.edu/~diesmanj/harlem_intro.html Last Updated 09.08.04

The interesting thing about the Harlem Renaissance is that it is one of the few artistic movements to not be centered around any sort of aesthetic, but instead around a quasi-political philosophy. The poetry of Countee Cullen, for example, is mostly written in sonnet form, modeled in part after William Keats while that of Langston Hughes tends to be structureless, jazzy free verse. The two styles are utterly different, and there were more, but the "point," if you will, of the movement was not to develop a certain artistic aesthetic, but to introduce to the world "The New Negro" - the image of the "Negro race" as a culture capable of producing art and new ideas, instead of as, well, a bunch of Sambos.

The movement was to an extent orchestrated by intellectuals like W.E.B. Dubois and Alain Locke, who had specific political agendas for what the the art itself should be like. Of course the artists, being artists, preferred writing the dictations of their muses to writing those of a bunch of snooty philosophers, and it created great conflict in the movement. Poetry (by the way, most of the art from the renaissance, or at least most of what we care about today, was poetry) written about inner personal or sexual feelings, or that portrayed black people in a negative light was deeply frowned upon by Dubois and his kind, and there was so much tension and so many conflicting viewpoints that some historians, like David Levering Lewis, are hesitant to call it a movement at all.

The irony of the fact that the foundation of the movement was itself political is that in the 60's, when African-Americans really started getting political, the renaissance poets were ignored by most of America and more or less hated by The Black Pathers. The Renaissance figures were seen as Uncle Toms, because they weren't so radical and certainly in some ways could be seen as trying to prove that they could be just like white people, which for obvious reasons was incongruous with black power.

The renaissance came back onto the radar screen, or, if you want to be cynical about things, was invented during the 80's, a more conservative time when black anglophiles didn't seem like such an abomination anymore.

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