The Harlem Renaissance: Writers Reacting To Their Political Environment

Powerful Essays
The Harlem Renaissance emerged during turbulent times for the world, the United States, and black Americans. World War I and the Bolshevik Revolution of 1917 had left the world in disorder and stimulated anticolonial movements throughout the third world. In America, twenty years of progressive reform ended with the red scare, race riots, and isolationism throughout 1919 and led to conservative administrations through the twenties. While blacks were stunned by racial violence near the end of the decade and were frustrated by the lack of racial progress that progressivism had made, they were now armed with new civil rights organizations and confronted the approaching decade with new hope and determination. Education and employment opportunities had led to the development of a small black middle class. Few blacks thought that their future lay in the economically depressed rural South and hundreds of thousands migrated to seek prosperity and opportunity in the North. As these more educated and socially conscious blacks settled into New York’s neighborhood of Harlem, it developed into the cultural and political center of black America.
The 1910s also marked the rising of a political agenda advocating racial equality throughout the black community, especially in the growing black middle class. The National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP), founded to fight for the rights of blacks, and black sociologist W. E. B. Du Bois pushed the agenda. Black nationalist Marcus Garvey and the Universal Negro Improvement Association’s efforts also reflected the agenda and helped to inspire racial pride among working class blacks in the 1920s. This decade would bear witness to the long struggle against political disenfranchisement in the South and a change from traditional black political alignments in the North. Feminists too, having achieved victory in their campaign for suffrage, still faced more subtle obstacles on their road to equality. In addition, the ghettoization of American cities, the persistence of poverty in the midst of prosperity, and the disproportionate involvement of blacks in both of these processes challenged perceptions about the effectiveness of the American system.1 In 1926, professor Alain Locke observed, “The younger generation is vibrant with a new psychology.” which was shown by a shift from “…soci...

... middle of paper ...

...nce. NY: Doubleday, 1991.
Gates, Jr., Henry Louis and McKay, Nellie Y. African American Literature. NY: W.W. Norton and Company, 1997.
The Harlem Renaissance. University of North Carolina. 20 March 2001.
Haskins, Jim. The Harlem Renaissance. Brookfield, CT: The Millbrook Press, 1996.
Hornsby, Jr., Alton. “Black Americans.” The World Book Encyclopedia. Chicago, World Book, Inc., 1992.
Langston Hughes. University of North Carolina. 20 March 2001.
Lewis, David Levering, ed. The Portable Harlem Renaissance Reader. NY: Viking Penguin, 1994.
Meltzer, Milton. The Black Americans: A History in Their Own Words. NY: Ty Crowell, 1984.
Rampersad, Arnold. The Life of Langston Hughes. 2 vol. NY: Oxford Publishing, 1988.
Turner, Darwin T. “Langston Hughes.” The World Book Encyclopedia. Chicago: World Book, Inc., 1992.
Wintz, Cary D. Black Culture and the Harlem Renaissance. Houston, Rice University Press, 1988.
Wintz, Cary DeCordova. “Harlem Renaissance.” The Microsoft Encarta Encyclopedia. Danbury, CT: Microsoft, Inc., 1999.
Get Access