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The Negative Impacts of the Harlem Renaissance

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The 1920’s were a period or rapid growth and change in America. After World War I American’s were introduced to a lifestyle of lavishness they had never encountered before. It was a period of radical thought and ideas. It was in this time period that the idea of the Harlem Renaissance was born. The ideology behind the Harlem Renaissance was to create the image of the “New Negro”. The image of African-American’s changed from rural, uneducated “peasants” to urban, sophisticated, cosmopolites. Literature and poetry abounded. Jazz music and the clubs where it was performed at became social “hotspots”. Harlem was the epitome of the “New Negro”. However, things weren’t as sunny as they appeared. Many felt that the Harlem Renaissance itself wasn’t so much a celebration of Black culture, but rather a regurgitation of White ideals. To these African-Americans, the Harlem Renaissance represented conformity and submission to the White culture. Yet there were also those who were not even given the opportunity to be a part of the Harlem Renaissance. The poor Blacks in the South never received any of the racial tolerance up north. They lived in a world of racism and the Ku Klux Klan. The Harlem Renaissance did not redefine African-American expression. This can be seen through the funding dependence on White Americans, the continued spread of racism and the failure to acknowledge the rights of poor Southern African-Americans.

Harlem provided a source of entertainment for many people. With its Jazz Clubs and poetry readings it was the “hip” place to be. This was a shock to many African-American’s, who had never before had the opportunity to perform in such affluent surroundings. Oftentimes funding for these clubs or programs was provided by White Americans. This in itself was not a problem. However, the Harlem Renaissance became so dependant on the funding that when it stopped coming, there was no means by which to keep any of the clubs or literary cafes open. Some clubs in Harlem even discriminated against Black audience members. The popular Cotton Club, which featured solely Black performers, even went so far as to ban African-Americans’ from its audience entirely. Even in the Mecca of supposed racial equality, these sorts of discrimination were still prevalent. Advertisements for products produced by African-Americans were also skewed. Para...

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... The Harlem Renaissance was a time of growth and development in for African-Americans. They wrote novels, performed in clubs, and created the genre of Jazz. However, the Renaissance was imprisoned by its flaws. Rather then celebrating the unique culture of African-American’s, it oftentimes catered to what the White Americans would want to see and hear. Although racism seemed to be lower in Harlem and the Northern states, for many Blacks racism was at all time high. The Ku Klux Klan reached membership of astronomical proportions. They marched on Washington DC and handed out membership cards bashing minorities. Less educated Blacks, or those who couldn’t make it to Harlem, were often deemed ignorant. There was a barrier built between those Blacks with an education, and those without. And when the Great Depression hit, African Americans lost their jobs at a rate almost triple that of White Americans. Where was the equality Harlem had fought so hard for? The Harlem Renaissance, although it did achieve some remarkable things, did not redefine African American expression. That ideal, would take many more years of strife, struggle, and segregation to achieve.
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