Monday, January 3, 2011

Harlem Renaissance

"Sometimes I feel discriminated against, but it does not make me angry. It merely astonishes me. How can anyone deny themselves the pleasure of my company? It's beyond me." 

It’s been almost 100 years since the Harlem Renaissance started in New York and Black people in America are experiencing a similar renaissance today. In the spirit of the Renaissance, this year I’ll spotlight some of today’s experience while honoring our past as well. (scroll to bottom of this post to see 2 Cab Calloway Performances) Each month, the posts and pages on this blog will feature contemporary artists, writers and leaders.

Let’s start with a little history about the Harlem Renaissance itself…

"The Harlem Renaissance was a cultural movement that spanned the 1920s and 1930s. After the American civil war, liberated African-Americans searched for a safe place to explore their new identities as free men and women. They found it in Harlem which became home to some of the best and brightest minds of the 20th century, gave birth to a cultural revolution, and earned its status as "the capital of black America." At the time, it was known as the "New Negro Movement", named after the 1925 anthology by Alain Locke. Though it was centered in the Harlem neighborhood of New York City, many French-speaking black writers from African and Caribbean colonies who lived in Paris were also influenced by the Harlem Renaissance." 

June 1925 Cover of Opportunity
During this time, arts and venues such as the Cotton Club as well as literature flourished such as "Opportunity:  A Journal of Negro Life" which was published from 1923 to 1949 by the National Urban League. The editor, Charles S. Johnson, aimed to give voice to black culture, hitherto neglected by mainstream American publishing.  To encourage young writers to submit their work, Johnson sponsored three literary contests. In 1925 the winners included Zora Neale Hurston, Langston Hughes, and Countee Cullen. Ebony and Topaz, A Collectanea (1927) was an anthology of the best works published in the magazine.  Other organizations and movements such as the NAACP and Marcus Garvey's "Back to Africa" movement were also birthed during this time as well.


Fauset, Washington, Hurston, DuBois, Garvey
A Few Key Figures:
James Weldon Johnson
Jean Toomer
Jessie Redmon Fauset
Claude McKay
Zora Neal Hurston
Langston Hughes
WEB DuBois
Alain Locke
Marcus Garvey
Lena Horne
Duke Ellington
Ma Rainey
Cab Calloway
Marian Anderson
Louis Armstrong
Booker T. Washington
See these two videos of Cab in the 50's and Cab 30 years later....he still had it! 

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