The Harlem Renaissance is a convenient metaphor for the artistic and intellectual explosion that took place during the asses and asses. Discuss. By Tanya Monkish-Benefit Kerr The Harlem Renaissance remains one of the most momentous creative movements in American history, exceeding its original importance to one specific interest group and hence cannot be looked upon simply as a convenient metaphor. This essay will show that in addition to the eruption of creativity, the Harlem Renaissance should be acknowledged for its significant contribution to changing the self-perception of the
Negro in America in such a positive and significant way that eventually transformed the Harlem Renaissance into the Civil Rights Movement of the sass’s and changed the identity of America forever. The renaissance served to create a perception of distinctiveness among African Americans, at the same time, compelling white America to acknowledge the significance of an ethnic group far too long seen as inferior.
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The Harlem Renaissance may be defined as an eruption of creativity overflowing from the gifted minds of African-Americans between the asses and asses; though in truth, it was the center of focus for the articulation and litigation of a marginalia populace as much as it was an artistic movement. Even though mostly considered an African-American literary movement, the Harlem Renaissance stretched far beyond books and poetry to embrace art, dance, and music.
The creative minds of blacks behind the Harlem Renaissance used creative expression to make an important impact on all aspects of society, while at the same time providing African-Americans with their first sense of distinctiveness not defined by slavery. Embracing creative arts, individuals sought to re-conceptualize “the Negro’ apart from the white stereotypes that had influenced black peoples’ allegations to their culture and to one another.
They also sought to break free of Victorian ethical values and conformist shame about aspects of their lives that might strengthen racist opinions by whites. Never controlled by a specific school of thought but rather characterized by powerful debates, this movement laid the foundation for all later African American literature and had a huge influence on succeeding black literature and consciousness internationally.
While the Harlem Renaissance was certainly not restricted to New York City, Harlem enticed a significant concentration of intellect and talent; therefore, it served as the symbolic capital of cultural development. During the 20th century, approximately six million African-Americans escaped the remunerative hardships and harsh segregationist laws of the South and migrated northward to metropolises in an effort to obtain Jobs and economic stability as well as searching for a more racially open-minded society. Winter estimated that 175,000 of these African-Americans settled in New York City.
To attach an unambiguous commencement to the Harlem Renaissance by singling out one precise text can only serve to spark debates since black authors had been published since effortlessly definable as a defining moment was the range of issues that black writers covered as its onset. The true origin of this Renaissance is not in any single work that sparked a revolution, but in the various and multiple congregations of mutual interests by those yearning to showcase the remarkable surge of creativeness via the publication of literary magazines and books.
Crucial to the movement were magazines such as the Crisis, published by the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP); Opportunity, published by the National Urban League; and The Messenger, a socialist Journal eventually connected with the Brotherhood of Sleeping Car Porters, a black labor union. These groups attracted many Negro intellectuals who were particularly upset with the rise in violence against blacks in the United States; therefore, theses organization became the driving force for changing the status quo of the Negro.
This mutual need to help one another was a primeval component in changing the movement from a purely literary standpoint into one that incorporated all fine arts; it also played an important role in turning the Harlem Renaissance into a search for a new identity for an ethnic group previously defined by centuries of oppression. Although the artists created vivacious and lasting works of literature, art and music, the Harlem Renaissance quickly became Just as important for the way in which it gave African-Americans a real culture and a pride in acknowledging and embracing that culture.
Prior to this era, the representations of African-Americans in American literature were that of the illiterate and inferior peasant who made his or her living in the dirt of the cotton fields. The intellects contributed to the importance of the Harlem Renaissance by understanding and contributing to its purpose in creating positive role models for the Negro everywhere. One of the most important traits of the Harlem Renaissance is that teamwork was considered a better way to help individual works rather than to compete.
An intuitive sense that any single artistic effort was going to define all others created an effort by everyone involved to create a cultural tapestry that served not Just other artists, but audiences as well. In reality, this cultural movement essentially created the idea of the black intellectual for both Americans and Europeans. Furthermore, the creation of the “New Negro” in Harlem represented the liberation of the last relics of chattel slavery, those of low esteem and even uncertainty and self-revulsion.
Appraisers, however, query whether the Renaissance actually accomplished its goals of creating a new identity for the Negro separated from the history of slavery. One of the denunciations is that by trying to create a distinct culture detached from the past cruelties and even the influence of Anglo- European customs it succeeded only in alienation. A more powerful denunciation is that the Harlem Renaissance duplicated only the specific identity of the middle class, intelligent elites of an ethnic group trying to sway its background and views on a population still dominated by lower-class and illiterate people.
Yet, another criticism is that the very goal of forging an identity for an entire ethnic group and socially enlightening them was utterly impractical because the vast numbers of African Americans were mostly oblivious of it or knew it only as history. The foundation of all criticisms of the Harlem Renaissance is that it encloses an inevitable element of two- fixedness in that it tried to produce a distinct identity that was centered primarily on white society and educational system.
In fact, the central theme that can be concluded from all of the criticism is that it tried to accomplish little more than a lack representation of the white middle class establishment. What is not up for argument is the actual value of the artistic contributions of the era. James Weldon Johnson is an iconic figure in the initiation of the Harlem Renaissance both as writer and editor. He had written the contentious Autobiography of an Ex-colored Man and had also edited the book of American Negro Poetry.
This collection showcased quite a few of the Renaissances most artistic poets, including Longboats Hughes, a man who became legendary in the literary world, Hughes possessed a passion for music and mentioned as a medium by showcasing the importance of traditional black folk music. Zorn Neal Hurst published a literary magazine that collapsed almost immediately because of funding issues, but was influential nevertheless. Hurst later achieved immortality with her book Their Eyes were Watching God.
Literature was not the only art that defined the Harlem Renaissance. In fact, the music of the era may have been more significant in defining the uniqueness of the common Negro than the literary accomplishments. The music became a channel of communication, while providing inspiration to the literary achievements of writers and dramatists. Jazz surged into the arena of respectability and became symbolic as the essence of the urban way of life. The first Jazz performers were Bessie Smith, Duke Elongating, Charlie Parker and Billie Holiday.
Added to this, Longboats Hughes specifically set out to bridge the gap between music and literature by adding the rhythms of Jazz into his poetry while Claude McKay used the ambiance of Jazz in his novel, Home to Harlem. Harlem Renaissance, therefore, epitomizes an attempt to combine artistic channels to construct an identity of artistic expression which is often views as the apex of human creation. It is from this view point that the Renaissance can be propelled to being much more than a metaphor which speaks to comparison, but rather this makes the Renaissance an exemplary worthy of imitation.
The visual arts were also a vital component in stimulating the notion of a universality of individuality among blacks during the Harlem Renaissance. Aaron Douglas was head of the Department of Art at Fist University, where he exercised substantial influence over up and coming artists. He truly embraced the status of being the most important visual artist during the glory days of Harlem Renaissance, focusing on large murals hat brought to the fore the accomplishments of African-Americans all through history.
Douglas showed one of the undercurrents that drove the Harlem Renaissance, which was calling attention to value and contributions of blacks to the advancement of America. Implicit in that goal was the even greater goal of spurring future generations to even greater accomplishments and pride in their culture. Surely, the most long-lasting effect of the Harlem Renaissance may have been the one which entrenched upon the education of African Americans. The innovative endeavor of Negroes proved that stereotype of black inferiority was null and void.
The enlightening legacy of the Harlem Renaissance was not simply one in which more blacks saw the significance of education but it was one which saw an intensification in the importance and availability of high education. After the renaissance, more African Americans than ever, enrolled in colleges and universities. However, it was education that African Americans obtained. Since the socio-political actualities of racism divided America either indirectly or openly in nearly every work of literature produced during this period, the Harlem Renaissance is acknowledged for generating militancy borne by that pursuit of knowledge.
Anytime a people, who is exposed to an education system at a level they have been deprived of, it is only expected that certain quarters to identify the radical aspects of the denial of that education. Hence, there was a beginning of consciousness among African Americans across America that agreements made had not been kept from Reconstruction through World War I. The Renaissance essentially had the effect of deepening the sense of unfair discrimination by displaying how it could be achieved through much more indirect methods than chattel slavery or the Jim Crow Laws.
A significant amount of the intellects of the movement urged that discrimination of this type be challenged and overcome. It could only be through education that the real issues African Americans met in a racially divided world could be dealt with, and as such the literature and art of this period forced black audiences to become to embrace education so that they could understand what they were reading or looking at. During the period of the Harlem Renaissance, African-Americans for the first time had an honest reason to experience pride and rejoice in their identity.
Out of Harlem came works of literary, classical and fine arts that spoke of the contribution of their race and forced white supremacist groups to accept their contributions. In that moment in time, the entire world looked at Harlem as the future of artistic expression. The artistic works were grasped by scholars as a means of showcasing the idea that African-Americans no longer needed to classify themselves with a history of suppression and subsidiaries.
The Harlem Renaissance produced novelists, poets, artists and musicians who are today considered some of the finest that America ever produced, regardless of the lour of one’s skin. That, in fact, may be the ultimate achievement of the Harlem Renaissance. After the tremendous flood of artistic accomplishments that crossed every medium available, these Negro men and women and the works they created could no longer be treated with the grudging respect of great African-American art.
Today the finest books, poems, music and artwork are universally recognized as simply great American art. Thus, in addition to the burst of creativity in the artistic and intellectual explosion, the Harlem Renaissance should be recognized for its nutrition to changing the self-image of the Negro; a rise in self-esteem that would eventually transform into the Civil Rights Movement of the asses and changed the identity of America forever.
Indeed it was not a convenient metaphor but a celebration of African American heritage and cultural expression that continues to have positive effects on the social, intellectual and economic stature of African Americans and the Diaspora. 1. Bio True Story, Aaron Douglas Biography. 2. Houston Koala, Harlem. 3. Huggins Nathan, Harlem Renaissance (New York: Oxford University Press, 1971) . Kramer Victor and Robert Russ, Harlem Renaissance Re-Examined (New York: Whitish Publishing Company, 1997) 5.