Injustice during the Harlem Renaissance Movement

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Updated: Mar 28, 2022
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There appear to be plentiful literary movements that describe the 1920s in the United States; however, the Harlem Renaissance movement defines the period of the roaring twenties. The Great Migration allowed for the African American culture to flourish in the northern United States. Most of the African American population settled in New York, in a community after the name of Harlem (Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia). All southern blacks brought their talent to the north and expressed it, which existed to be the place where their word mattered.

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Harlem allowed for literary and artistic movements to rise in the roaring twenties. The Harlem Renaissance existed to be an African American intellectual movement that spread throughout the 1920’s. Authors including Langston Hughes, Counted Sullen, Alain Locke, and Zora Neale Hurston revealed the ideology of injustice in a race. From 1920 to 1930 the rise of Black American culture flourished in American society due to the Great Migration which helped colored citizens reach justice in race to search for fulfillment during the Harlem Renaissance.

The movement consisted of African American writers using their own culture in their readings to work for their goals of civil rights and equality. Writers shift in expression led to the change of writing style by expressing more African American culture through text. Most writings during this literary movement related to the ideas of racial consciousness due to the circumstances the writers faced through the economic boom of America (Baumohl). The roaring twenties were a period of political, economic and social changes. The 1920s introduced several new forms of advanced technology and sciences allowing for citizens to take advantage. The economic boom allowed citizens to earn extra money to waste on consumer needs or wants to reach the “American Dream.” Also, citizens lifestyle appeared faster due to their lack of keeping up with famous celebrities and trends. However, during this time period African American culture was reborn using artistic development of racial pride which appears known as the Harlem Renaissance.

Politics during the 1920s appeared most vivid and alive during the 1920s. Prohibition led to the most dramatic change during the 1920s. The ratification of the eighteenth amendment to the Constitution in 1919 led to the hugest crime rate in history (“”The 1920s Government, Politics, and Law: Overview””). The amendment prohibited alcohol form both being sold and consumed. It split the country into two opposing ideologies, one that favored the practice of alcohol and one that prohibited it (“”The 1920s Government, Politics, and Law: Overview””). Unfortunately, this amendment led to organized crime syndicates. Which was the practice of illegal trade made by famous gangsters and movie stars which turned mob bosses into rich millionaires.

Despite politics during the 1920s, government and economy greatly influenced the environment from 1920 through 1930. The United States became a Republican stronghold during the 1920s. Warren G. Harding held office from 1920 to 1923 after his sudden death, Calvin Coolidge, Harding’s vice president, took office (“”The 1920s Government, Politics, and Law: Overview””). The 1920s consisted of a Republican government in all three branches of government. Business matters in government reduced leading to a cut back in spending and substantial tax cuts. All policies pleased the citizens of the United States expect the agricultural community. Close relationships between business and government led to tremendous corruption.

Also, postwar depression in the 1920s led to the United States economic boom. Money held an average of less than one percent of the power of inflation from 1920 to 1930 (Baumohl). The 1920s was the last decade the federal budget had an overabundance every year. According to Baumohl, the United States national debt indeed decreased by 8 billion dollars leading for a reduction in taxes. Mass production in the twentieth century shaped the social norms and lifestyle. Assembly lines were implemented in factories for a productive and efficient life to process. There appeared to a rise in marketing and consumer goods motivated the citizens to live life to the fullest without worrying about financial status. Some inventions made in the roaring twenties were automobiles, radios, and refrigerators.

Furthermore, the economic boom led to the rise of industrial jobs in the North and West parts of the United States. African Americans took advantage of the opportunity and realized how there appeared to be no hope in the South, so they migrated. According to The National Museum of African American History and Culture, hundreds of thousands emigrated to industrial cities, but a section in Manhattan also known as Harlem drew around 175,000 African American citizens. Harlem withheld the largest population of blacks living. They all sought to show the world their new identity as free and not slaves. Having faced slavery and racial oppression all, they attempted to find was freedom.

Moreover, white supremacy rose during the 1920s leading to, unfortunately, the second rise of the Ku Klux Klan (Dirks). The hate group executed lynching’s and held campaigns to keep African Americans from exercising their right to vote. African Americans were held back by the Jim Crow Laws or in short; the segregation law kept colored citizens from reaching equality. Dirks claims that Jim Crow strict rules prevented African Americans from reaching fairness and forced them to stay powerless against white American citizens. Leaving African Americans isolated and hopeless.

The second Ku Klux Klan rose in the 1920s because white citizens felt the need of white supremacy. Their ideologies of KKK relied on racism and nativism. Members of the KKK used violence and political terrorism to gain power in society. The second KKK not only killed black people like the first KKK but now it targeted Catholic and Semitism people because those were some of the ideologies, they believed in (Dirks). According to Dirks, the second Ku Klux Klan irritated the Democratic National Convention in 1924. Members of the clan detested catholic and anti-prohibition therefore many people feared the organization. Citizens feared the organization; therefore many joined not to risk the chance of having their lives at stake.

Nevertheless, Jazz music originated from African American slaves in North America. The music appeared to be a combination of black and white culture. The rhythms and instruments were brought from Africa while the fiddle strains and songs were from the British Isles (Benson). The combination happened in the 1890s as ragtime and later became named Jazz (Benson). Louis Armstrong, an African American from New Orleans, played the cornet and influenced significantly in the Jazz music industry. Through the 1920’s he performed in large cities including, Chicago, Illinois, and New York City (Benson). However, Hughes became engaged with New York City’s Harlem nightclub where he performed. He had excellent skills in improvising will playing music and came up with great music. Armstrong appears to be a key figure in the Harlem Renaissance due to his contribution in evolving the jazz music industry.

After the ratification of the nineteenth amendment, women started to express their freedom. Women appeared to have a more adventurous lifestyle including the cutting of long hair into a “”bob”” which signified their freedom movement (“”The 1920s Lifestyles and Social Trends: Topics in the News””). More women started to work in factories and forced jobs to become a coed environment. Many worked as nurses, teachers or office workers. Women began to adopt men activities such as driving, playing sports and dancing such as the Charleston. Flappers trend rose in social norms in the twentieth century. The style ran through young women and became a symbol of the 1920s. The form contained slim-hipped, bobbed hair, short skirts. Also, women wore dangling beads, danced Charleston, smoked cigarettes and drank bootleg gin because prohibition was in action. The image of the women flapper was a cry from earlier norms of respectable feminine decency.

However, James Mercer Langston Hughes appeared to be an influential writer during the 1920s. His greatest inspiration, his grandmother raised him. Hughes parents divorced when he was young which led his grandmother to race him. His grandmother obtained the role of his motivation and inspiration (“Langston Hughes”). Kids tend to learn social norms at a young age and luckily, he had his grandmother enforcing the idea of pursuing an excellent education, making him pursue his love for literature. Later, in his college life, Hughes received a scholarship to Lincoln University, in Pennsylvania (Flournoy ix). While studying in Lincoln, Hughes published his first book of poetry, The Weary Blues, in 1926 which portrayed his poetic craft and expression of black themes and culture (Flournoy ix). Also, Hughes was one of the first African American writers who used jazz rhythms and dialects to express the life of urban black in his writings. Shortly after graduating from Lincoln, Not Without Laughter obtained published in 1929 and represented the idea of racial inequality during the roaring twenties.

On the other hand, Langston Hughes, an African American poet, in Not Without Laughter interpreted his attitude through his texts as a betrayal of racial identity by exploring his blackness using idioms (Flournoy ix). Hughes exited the leading light of the Harlem Renaissance in the 1920’s his poems greatly influenced African American culture. Langston born in Missouri spent most of his childhood in Kansas before moving to Harlem where he was influenced by the environment that surrounded him (Flournoy ix). Not Without Laughter existed as the first African Americans poet’s award-winning first novel, about a colored boy maturing in a Kansas town just as Hughes appeared raised. To be an award-winning fiction novel, it will express all the cultural movements during the 1920s including racial consciousness during this decade. Hughes through Not Without Laughter shows the lives of African Americans in the Midwest during the early twentieth century. He examines the different levels of social classes and prejudices inside and out of the African American community. The themes in Not Without Laughter contain love and African American culture. However, Hughes also shows the loss and sadness with ironically humor and hope.

Also, the black language of Ebonics is used by Langston Hughes in Not Without Laughter. Throughout the entire novel, Hughes uses dramatic dialogue to tell the story with the use of Ebonics language to express his black culture. Ebonics pronunciation includes the elimination of the last consonant in a word or phrase, the pronunciation of “th” to “t,” and pronunciation of the vowel in words (Rickford). For example, Hughes in Not Without Laughter uses terms such as “de mawnin,” “bout,” “skeared” to express his black culture language (Hughes 7). Furthermore, Ebonics exits to be a sign of limited education due to its legacy of slavery or a barrier to socioeconomic mobility (Rickford). The theme portrayed through the novel appears to reveal the injustice, people of color go through on an everyday life. Hughes, in addition, fails to mention them as blacks instead he uses terms such as “brown piece of toast” or “coal-colored” which reveals the different social classes in the black community (Hughes 11-12). Ironically the tone and mood for Not Without laughter appear to be jovial due to his abundance use of metaphors and idioms. Hughes utilizes humorous metaphors to maintain a vivid hue to reach his message to his audience. Also, Hughes through Not Without Laughter expresses the lives of African Americans in the Midwest during the early twentieth century. He examines the different levels of social classes and prejudices inside and out of the African American community. Now Without Laughter expresses the horrible impact of racism on Sandy’s family. It shows that colored families set in social classes based on the color of skin, level of education, the church attended and their work statues.

All in all, the period from 1920 through 1930 consisted of the Harlem Renaissance movement which expressed race inequality in the United States. Also, Countee Cullen promoted equality through austere themes expressed in his poetry such as “Color” from 1925. Zora Neale Hurston, female citizen of Alabama, defined the Harlem Renaissance movement with her novel “Their Eyes Were Watching God” by using a women protagonist to portray successful African American women during this period. Also, Alain Locke author of “The New Negro” wrote from the perspective of a hopeful negro in America using metaphors to show his beliefs (“The Editors of Encyclopaedia Britannica”). Lastly, Langston Hughes expressed race injustice through “Not Without Laughter” with irony which appears expressed through his writing craft. The Harlem Renaissance movement surrounded by jazz, paintings, poetry, opera, and dance all relating to black culture. Hughes called it the “”expression of our individual dark skinned selves,”” which obtains their goal in society as well as achieving their civil rights. Overall, authors during the 1920s expressed their proud, rich African American culture to gain social and political equality in the United States.”

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Injustice during the Harlem Renaissance Movement. (2021, May 24). Retrieved from