Harlem Renaissance And Its Impact On American Literature

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Harlem Renaissance and its impact on American Literature


An outburst of creative activity among African Americans occurred in all fields of art between 1920 and 1930. The place was Harlem in New York City and the people were African Americans who came from the South looking for a better way of life. What they found was new, exciting and wonderful. They found Duke Ellington and Lena Horne playing and singing sounds of soulful jazz. The brilliant art of William H. Johnson could be seen with colorful scenes of the rural South. This African-American cultural movement became known as "The New Negro Movement" and later as the Harlem Renaissance. Although it was short lived the Harlem Renaissance changed the face of black America forever. The literary movement during the Harlem Renaissance was a raging fire that brought about new life for the African American writer; its flame still burns today through the writings of contemporary African American writers(Jeffrey, pp.25-30). This paper discusses Harlem Renaissance and its impact on American Literature.


Harlem Renaissance An African American cultural movement of the 1920s and early 1930s that was centered in the Harlem neighborhood of New York City. (Baker, p.85) Variously known as the New Negro movement, the New Negro Renaissance, and the Negro Renaissance, the movement emerged toward the end of World War I in 1918, blossomed in the mid- to late 1920s, and then faded in the mid-1930s. The Harlem Renaissance marked the first time that mainstream publishers and critics took African American literature seriously and that African American literature and arts attracted significant attention from the nation at large.

The Harlem Renaissance emerged amid social and intellectual upheaval in the African American community in the early 20th century. Several factors laid the groundwork for the movement. A small black middle class had developed by the turn of the century, fostered by increased education and employment opportunities following the American Civil War (1861-1865). During a phenomenon known as the Great Migration, hundreds of thousands of black Americans moved from an economically depressed rural South to industrial cities of the North to take advantage of the employment opportunities created by World War I(Powell, pp.96-110).

During the post-civil period, a number of ex-slaves compiled their memories in form of books. Most of these books were refused to be printed by the white publishing houses. Some succeeded while others waited for long time to get their works published and be brought to the public. The scenario lasted till the end of World War I. Between 1919 and 1926; a large number of African Americans migrated towards the northern cities of Chicago, Washington D.C. and New York. Many of these Negroes settled in New York districts of upper and lower Manhattan. The lower Manhattan area was commonly called Greenwich Village while upper Manhattan was known as Harlem. It was from Harlem, the African American cultural movement stated that become known as “The New Negro Movement” and later on got famous as “Harlem Renaissance”. The Harlem Renaissance was thus the ...
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