The Harlem Renaissance fostered new black identity

PHYLLIS LOGIE By PHYLLIS LOGIE, 12th Apr 2011 | Follow this author | RSS Feed
Posted in Wikinut>Guides>History

It was fifty years after slavery ended and for the first time, African Americans who moved Northwards, many of whom settled in Harlem. There they were able for the first time to express themselves culturally without inhibitions

African Americans came into their own culturally after slavery ended

The Harlem Renaissance was a movement generated within the African American community, principally by those who migrated to the north from the southern states of America at the end of slavery. The Harlem Renaissance sought to foster the newly emerging black cultural identity between 1920’s and 30’s. It was described as the coming of age, a chance at group expression and the virtual intellectual blossoming of one of the most repressed group in history.

Slavery had ended only a generation and an half before. The cruelty of slavery was still fresh, if not in the minds of the new arrivals themselves, certainly in the minds of people close to them. Racism was still a rampant force to be reckoned with and real equality of opportunity hard to come by. This left any real opportunity for creativity and self expression, within the narrow realms of music, art and literature. These were the only avenues open on which to unleash their considerible creative talent and self-expression. The only opportunity where they could transform social disillusionment into racial pride.

The period between the nineteen twenties and thirty was perfect timing, the ground fertile. By then, many thousands of blacks had migrated to the North to take advantage of the growing prosperity. Jobs were plentiful and Harlem, especially the areas around the 114th and 156th streets was the hob of black activity, with an estimated 175,000 African Americans living in the general neighbourhood.

African Americans owned newspapers and magazines which flourished, feeding the insatiable appetite of blacks for news, views and events that reflected their own community. It was from these roots that the likes of W.E.B. Dubois, one of the leading lights of the black community emerged. He was the founder member of the National Association of the Advancement of Coloured People (NAACP) and winner of the Nobel Peace prize in 1952. Others notable writers to emerge included Zora Neal Hurston, Langton Hughes, Richard Wright and the poet Countee Cullen.

The Harlem Renaissance was a hotbed of opportunity which gave voice to not only writers, poets and musicians, but gave opportunity for expression to painters and and sculptors, whilst opening avenues for politicians capable of speaking on behalf of the black community. No longer were American society dominated by whites, blacks now had equal rights. This to some extent created uncertainty within white community, who began to voice their fears about the emerging influence on their social, economic and political norms by the 'New Blacks'.

The new black influence represented a ‘golden age’ where African American ideas began to disperse around the world. They were once slaves or the immediate descendants of slaves, lacking in basic education and working in the cotton fields in the southern states of America. Now the ‘New Black’, gave life to the Harlem Renaissance and by their own efforts developed into figures of influence who had something to say and demanded to be heard.


African, African American, Black Culture, Black Migration, Harlem, Harlem Renaissance, Naacp, New Blacks, Slavery

Meet the author

author avatar PHYLLIS LOGIE
I am a retired female who has been writing for the past five years. My favorite topics are history and biographies.

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