Tuesday, December 25, 2007


HARLEM RENAISSANCE Variously known as the "New Negro Movement" and the "Black Renaissance," the Harlem Renais­sance was a literary and artistic movement which had its incep­tion and earliest successes in New York City during the 1920's. In large part the result of the "Great Migration" of rural blacks to northern metropolitan areas during the era of World War I, the Harlem Renaissance was the intellectual counterpart to what historians August Meier and Elliott Rudwick have called "the sense of community and racial solidarity" advocated by Marcus Garvey's Universal Negro Improvement Association. A firm believer in black potential, Garvey never tired of imploring his race to "recognize the proud past, the tragic present and the limitless future yet to be." It is not surprising, therefore, that the literature and art of the Harlem Renaissance reflected the innermost feelings and aspirations of a racially conscious group. "Through poetry, prose, and song," according to John Hope Franklin, "the writers cried out against social and economic wrongs. They protested against segregation and lynching. They demanded higher wages, shorter hours, and better conditions of work. They stood for full social equality and first-class citizenship." Yet, despite this insistence upon racial solidarity and the rejection of white values and stereotypes, the writings of the Harlem Renaissance in many ways paralleled the general post-war literary emphasis upon a world devoid of values and meaning. Echoing Ezra Pound's reflections upon "a botched civilization" and F. Scott Fitzgerald's estimate of his generation as having "grown up to find all gods dead, all wars fought, all faiths in man shaken," black poet Claude McKay wrote that he "had no reason to think that the world I lived in was permanent, solid, and unshakable."

In addition to McKay, who generally is regarded as the first significant writer of the Harlem Renaissance, other notable achievers during the period include Countee Cullen, Langston Hughes and Henry O. Tanner. See also: COUNTEE CULLEN, LANGSTON HUGHES, CLAUDE McKAY and HENRY O. TANNER.

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