English Harlem Renaissance

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Last updated: May 12, 2019

What did the Harlem Renaissance do?
It increased education and employment opportunities following WWI, which led to the development of the African American middle class.

Also, as more educated and socially conscious African Americans settled in Harlem, it developed into the political and cultural center of black America. Also, the Harlem Renaissance marked the first time black arts attracted significant attention and mainstream publishes took African American literature seriously. African American artists and writers began to use the arts to push for equality.

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What are the three places of the Harlem Renaissance?
Churches, speakeasies, and social clubs

What is the role of churches?
They stabilize forces amid population explosion

What are speakeasies and what is their role?
Speakeasies are parties that illegally sold alcoholic beverages during Prohibition during 1920-1933.

Speakeasies are the center of the jazz age, and there were “cutting contests” where piano players battled improvisationally. An example of a speakeasy is the Savoy, which is the wildest, hottest, and most racially integrated dance club in Harlem.

What is the role of social clubs?
They held charity functions and had sponsored suppers, musicals, and symposiums during the social season of Thanksgiving to Lent.

How many social clubs are there in Harlem?
Over 700

What was African Americans’ goal?
Giving expression to the African American experience

Who is Langston Hughes?
The poet of the Harlem Renaissance who was the first African American to make a living as a writer, who wrote What Happens to A Dream Deferred? and One Way Ticket.

What is the Harlem Renaissance?
An African American cultural movement of the 1920’s and early 1930’s centered around the Harlem neighborhood of New York City.

What is the irony of the minstrel myth?
The minstrel performers say the performance is “authentic”, however there is no way it can be authentic because the performers are not actually black.

What else did the Harlem Renaissance do?
The Harlem Renaissance opened doors for many African Americans to publish in mainstream white magazines and publishing houses. Also, the cabarets attracted both Harlem residents and white New Yorkers seeking Harlem’s nightlife. Also, the Cotton Club provided African American entertainment for exclusively white audiences.

What is the irony of the Cotton Club?
The club featured black performers as glamorous and good looking, but black patrons were not allowed inside. Also, the theme of the club is “nostalgia for the antebellum South” and the backdrop was set to look like a cotton plantation.

Also, there were lots of light skinned dancers advertised as “tall, tan, and terrific”.

What are the reasons of the decline of the Harlem Renaissance?
The Harlem Renaissance declined because during the Great Depression, the NAACP shifted their focus to economic and social issues. Also, tensions developed in Harlem between white shop owners and African American residents. Also, a 1935 riot scared many of the wealthier and educated Harlem residents to move.

What happened in October, 1929?
It was the end of white America’s infatuation with Harlem.

What did the Great Depression do?
It crushed “The Roaring 20s” and ended the indulgence that financed the patronage of Harlem artists and their establishments.

The Harlem Riot of 1935
It was the first modern race riot. It also shattered the notion of Harlem as the “Mecca” for African-Americans and broke the fleeting truce between white and black America.

What is the legacy of the Harlem Renaissance?
By the 1930’s, jazz had become America’s music and the jitterbug changed couples dancing forever. Also, the next generation of African American writers came from Harlem and wrote some of America’s greatest pieces of literature.

“Black is beautiful”, a phrase with roots in the Harlem Renaissance, became a rallying cry in The Civil Rights Movement decades later, and the seeds of the movement continue to bear fruit today, not just for African Americans, but for all Americans.

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