The Harlem Renaissance

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The Harlem Renaissance

Until the first part of the Twentieth Century, Caucasian artists dominated the world of poetry. White poetry written about the experiences of white people was the only kind of verse most people had ever heard. With the arrival of the Harlem Renaissance in the 1920's, this relatively cultured world of American poetry was shaken to its foundations. The term Harlem Renaissance refers to an artistic, cultural, and social burgeoning of writings about race and the African American's place in American life during the early 1920's and 1930's. It was a time of political advancements, social criticism, and protest as well as the growth of literature. Harlem was the center of urban black life. Many African Americans, who wanted to write, compose music, effect social change, or to have the best chance of changing their circumstances went to Harlem. Harlem, New York had been considered the heart of African American life, hence the name The Harlem Renaissance. Black urban migration, combined with trends in a American society toward experimentation in the 1920's, and the rise of radical black intellectuals - including Langston Hughes, Countee Cullen, and Zora Neale Hurston --all contributed to the particular styles, themes, and the extraordinary success of black artists during the Harlem Renaissance period.

Langston Hughes, a primary voice of the Harlem Renaissance in the 1920's, was known as "The Poet Laureate of Harlem". Hughes had pride in his black heritage, strong political beliefs, and the will to survive in a society where racial equality had to be fought for. Hughes' strength and determination shine through his poetry, he does not hide the fact that he lived with racism, but talks of his strength and to st...

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... may be seen as manifestos of selfhood, as affirmations of blackness and the positive sides of black life.

Part of the energy that fuelled the Harlem Renaissance was the belief that black cultural achievement in the "high" arts would socially and spiritually uplift the race. Clearly this has not happened. Where the legacy of the Harlem Renaissance remains, is a profoundly romantic one for the black middle-class on the streets, where a great majority of black culture is made. The spirit and ethnicity of African American literature involves various themes such as: folk styles; protests against dehumanization and discrimination; moral and racial consciousness; cultural nationalism; rebellion against racism; and a search for self-realization by the characters. On the other hand, the universal theme of nature, love and death are also represents by these authors' works.
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