The above quote is by Langston Hughes. If any words are a reflection of the Harlem Renaissance, I believe it’s those words. The Harlem Renaissance was the great REBIRTH of Black culture in the US. The beauty and vibrance of the Harlem Renaissance is forever embedded in the souls of our culture, not just in the United States, but around the world. Artists like Ella Fitzgerald, Billie Holiday, Louis Armstrong were all at their height during the Harlem Renaissance and what they created touched people. The beauty, sophistication and cleverness that was unearthed during the Harlem Renaissance was a testament to the humanity and dignity of Black people everywhere. No one could tell us that we were inferior when we were creating art that changed the world.
The Harlem Renaissance, also known as the “New Negro Movement,” was the widespread birth of innovative and original Black art forms. The Harlem Renaissance spanned the 1920s- 1930s era and changed the course of the world. Jazz music was at its height during this time.Sometimes I wish that I had grown up during the Harlem Renaissance…the height of African-American literature, film, jazz,dance…everything. Just the bustling and booming expressions of Black Soul.
This was around the time that artists like Langston Hughes, Zora Neal Hurston, Josephine Baker, Ella Fitzgerald, Billie Holiday and Louis Armstrong all blossomed and changed the course of America and the world. Together they created a rich and beautiful culture. What they created was more than just entertainment, they created art that enriched the lives and touched the souls of everyone. The jazz, the dance, the poetry, the paintings…such beauty and sorrow at the same time. I believe the Harlem Renaissance was as much about survival as it was about celebration.
In the midst of segregation, discrimination and widespread oppression, I believe that the culture is what held Black folks together. If black people couldn’t be free to sit on the bus, or free to go to the schools they wanted, then they were free in their arts. The arts that were created during the Harlem Renaissance brought freedom, vibrancy and hope to many people, black and non-black.
Check out the videos below
* The painting is by Archibald Motley, a Harlem Renaissance painter.