The Harlem Renaissance was a cultural African American movement beginning in the 1920’s and lasting through the 1930’s. During World War One, American factories were facing a worker shortage due to the increase of young men heading off to battle. With promises of economic prosperity that sharecropping did not offer, rural African Americans from the south migrated to urban northern cities. The cities that saw the largest influx of African Americans were New York, Chicago, Philadelphia and Detroit.1 When the war ended and soldiers returned home racial tensions began to build due to the lack of jobs and affordable housing.2 Increasing rent prices helped African Americans ban together to form their own neighborhoods, such as Harlem, a borough inside of New York City.
The 1920’s became a cultural rebirth for African Americans with Harlem becoming a “symbolic capital”3 for artists, writers, musicians and actors. Known as the Harlem Renaissance, which was part of the New Negro Movement, this era gave way to an exploration of what it meant to be a negro.4 No longer looking through the lens of white stereotypes, African Americans were embracing their heritage, identity and modern life experiences. The increase in cultural pride that swept across African American communities resulted in an increase of literacy, uplifting of their race by appreciating and acknowledging their heritage and the creation of professional organizations such as the National Association of the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP).
The Harlem Renaissance became an awaking of African American literature, theatre, music and visual arts. African Americans had an opportunity for expression and self reflection that the previously were unable to ha...
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... who is no more than skin and bones watches and waits for when it might be his turn for something to eat.
As the series continues to unfold, Lawrence skillfully conveys that times will continue be rough in the north, as seen in panel 52. In this painting white and blacks are brawling with no one side being the victor since they are competing for the jobs and housing.8 Visually, Lawrence is able to make the viewer’s eye travel throughout the whole scene from the use of diagonal line and splotches of bright color. In panel 56, Lawrence uses lighter hues of blue to create a focal point on the African American doctor. Through this painting and the remaining paintings, Lawrence wraps up the series on the black experience by showcasing that in the north, even with it’s problems, African Americans now have the chance to become more than what they were while in the south.
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