What was the Harlem Renaissance?

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Updated: Nov 30, 2023
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This essay will explore the Harlem Renaissance, its historical context, major figures, and the impact it had on African American culture and the broader American cultural landscape. Additionally, PapersOwl presents more free essays samples linked to Harlem Renaissance.

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Where did it begin? How did it change the lives of many African-Americans? In this paper, these questions along with a few other questions that will be answered. You will also be informed of what is known as the Harlem Renaissance.

The Harlem Renaissance movement occurred during post-war America at the end of World war 1 to the Great Depression in the 1930s. This movement was made up of a group of African-American writers who produced large quantities of fiction, drama, poetry, and much more, which is why this period is considered a golden age in African-American culture.

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Because of this starting in Harlem, it was then called the Harlem Renaissance, with Renaissance meaning —he forms and treatments in art used during this period” or renewal of life, vigor, interest, etc.; rebirth; revival?. In Harlem, a large neighbourhood within the northern half of New York City borough of Manhattan. At first, this was an exclusive suburb for white citizens, but around the later half of the 19th century, most whites there had moved on further south.

During the Great Migration is when Harlem started to turn into an African-American neighbourhood, by which the black citizen’s population in Central Harlem increased from 10% in 1910 to 1930 with over 70%. Harlem became a place of residency to most African-American intellectuals who had something to contribute to this movement.

The Great Migration also played an important role in the Harlem Renaissance. Due to the first World War, there was a labour shortage that was seen as an opportunity by the African-American citizens to seek employment elsewhere up North. This movement from the rural South to a more urban north of African-Americans was instrumental in initiating the Harlem Renaissance. Movement of African-Americans in America went from the South to the North and Midwest. Among 1.6 million migrants moved from the South in institutionalized racism to seek a better life for themselves in the booming Northern economy. Many factors served in seeking a better life for African-Americans. One of these things includes a few of the several laws passed by southern states against African-Americans preventing black citizens from registering to vote as well as mandated racial segregation.

Industrial jobs were numerous, where factory owners would look for cheap labour. White labourers had also complained that African-Americans were lowering wages and flooding the employment market. Most African-Americans toiled as sharecroppers stuck in an endless debt cycle. In the 1890s the cotton crop was damaged throughout the region by a boll weevil blight, which caused increased despair. Segregated by practice, run-down urban slums is where most new migrants found themselves. The largest of these slums was Harlem, where a large group of artists, writers, actors, and musicians created new African-American traditions and celebrated old ones. African-American families were also alarmed by these hate groups and crimes in the Deep South, such as the KKK. This movement was spread through the United States, while reaching as far as Paris, due to the cause of the Great Migration. The Harlem Renaissance came to an end during the Great Depression.

A few important figures in the Harlem Renaissance included Jean Toomer and Langston Hughes. Jean Toomer was one of the people who celebrated black heritage. Many African-Americans also felt free while celebrating their heritage. Langston Hughes was one who was most associated with Harlem because he depicted the lives the people of Harlem including all of their troubles and their joyful moments.

The Great Migration and the Harlem Renaissance both impacted African-American lives greatly. Some of these things is when the industry had a boom that was brought out by World War 1, causing the southern farming society to move to the northern industrial society. This migration came to Harlem. This sense of opportunity that had characterized the 1920s was felt by these African-Americans. Many African-American authors thrived around this time, though resistance was encountered from the white community.

Many writers, musicians, and actors were involved in this Harlem Renaissance. A few of these writers were Claude McKay and Zora Neale Hurston. Claude McKay wrote fiction and poetry that was able to speak out against some of the injustices done to African-Americans. He was also the first writer to publish in Harlem. Zora Neale Hurston was known for her moving novel, Their eyes were watching God, for which she was quickly noticed. One actor involved was Paul Robeson. Paul Robeson was known for electrifying audiences with memorable stage performances.

A few of these musicians involved included Bessie Smith, Billie Holiday, Jelly Roll Morton, and Louis Armstrong. Jelly Roll Morton and Louis Armstrong were both able to draw in huge audiences of both white Americans and African-Americans who caught their jazz fever. The Cotton Club of Harlem also boasted the talents of Duke Ellington. Of the new American city, it took very close proximity to help bring in some of the greatest minds of the day. Harlem also helped to bring notice to lots of great works that might have been lost or never produced otherwise. The Harlem Renaissance artists undoubtedly helped to transform the African-American culture with outstanding results, causing white America unable to look away for the first time due to the strong impact on all American cultures.

Expression through music became more widespread during this period in time. The Harlem Renaissance resulted in the creation of a New Negro that would make substantial gains in civil rights eventually. During the New Negro movement, Harlem was most closely associated with Jazz and the African-American rise of arts. The 1921 production of Shuffle Along can in some cases, be credited with initiating this movement. Jazz in the Harlem Renaissance helped to shape the entire world. Jazz, with its syncopated rhythms and improvised instrumental solos, flouted many musical conventions. Night after night, thousands of city dwellers flocked to see many of the same performances. The Harlem Renaissance, all in all, was characterized by changes in music.


In conclusion, the Harlem Renaissance made a huge impact on both the lives of African-Americans and others. Through a renewing of their culture and the new way of thinking, as well as to take pride of their culture, the Harlem Renaissance helped to shape the entire world.

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What was the Harlem Renaissance?. (2020, Mar 03). Retrieved from https://papersowl.com/examples/harlem-renaissance-2/