Monday, 27 October 2014

Follow Up: Harlem Renaissance

“The day of ‘aunties,’ ‘uncles,’ and ‘mammies’ is …gone. Uncle Tom and Sambo have passed on….” 
Alain Locke



Harlem and ideas related to African American culture and achievement were closely wedded together by the early 1920s. Though emancipation and the Civil War (1861-1865) had brought an end to slavery, African Americans continued to face widespread discrimination, particularly in the South. During the first half of the twentieth century, hundreds of thousands of Americans migrated to northern industrial and urban centers, in search of employment and better living conditions. Termed the “Great Migration,” this movement brought numerous African Americans to Harlem in Northern Manhattan. Harlem was originally a Dutch settlement that had been overdeveloped by real estate speculators at the turn of the twentieth century. The lack of readily available urban transportation discouraged residents from moving to some areas of Harlem. Sensing opportunity, African American real estate developer Philip A. Payton began purchasing properties and leasing them to tenants (literally via Harlem Renaissance Docent/Educator Resource Guide).






It was only a matter of time before African American businesses, churches, and other communal organizations moved to Harlem, forming a “Negro metropolis.” By the 1920s, Harlem became a symbol of pride and achievement, and also a place of opportunity and fantasy. Jazz, cabarets, and Prohibition-era speakeasies brought numerous whites to Harlem, many fascinated with African American culture and their notions of the “primitive” and “exotic.” White “patrons,” such as Carl Van Vechten, author, critic, and avid photographer, encouraged the “vogue” of Harlem (literally via Harlem Renaissance Docent/Educator Resource Guide).



Though it served as a creative stimulus of sorts, this external interest in Harlem represents only one aspect of the period; it is also the era of the “New Negro.” In use since the turn of the twentieth century, the term “New Negro” came to epitomize the quest for self-identity and desire to move beyond the stereotypes that remained from the era of slavery. Critics such as Alain Locke and W.E.B. Du Bois urged artists and writers throughout the United States to explore themes of African American life and culture and to look beyond caricature and stereotyping in their works. Artists were also encouraged to explore African art as a source of inspiration (literally via Harlem Renaissance Docent/Educator Resource Guide).






The cultural and artistic climate of the Harlem Renaissance also paved the way for later developments, such as AfriCobra and the Black Arts movement of the sixties, which prioritized an expression of the African American experience, African heritage, racial [sic] pride, and the black image (including slogans such as “Black is Beautiful”), as well as racial politics. The lasting legacy of the Harlem Renaissance lies in the continued interest in exploring, modernizing, and visualizing the African American experience, both contemporary and historical (literally via Harlem Renaissance Docent/Educator Resource Guide).











photos by Carl Van Vechten via and via and via and via and via and via and via and via and via and via and via and via and via and via and via and via and via and via and via and via and via and via and via and via and via and via and via and via and via and via and via and via and via and via and via and via and via and via and via and via and via and via and via and via and via; copyright by their respective owners

5 comments:

  1. Smmmmmashing, Laura! Thanks!

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  2. Excellent!

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  3. Thanks a million for your wonderful comments, Karen, Derek, Wim, and Wouter!

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