The artistic and intellectual growth that defined the Harlem Renaissance helped to unify African Americans across social classes and to wear away interracial barriers.
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The Harlem Renaissance:
An African American cultural movement after WWI that emerged from a group of young, literate, black poets, intellectuals, writers, musicians, actors, and artists.

- World War 1 increased demand for manufactured war items while at the same time taking away a good chunk of the manufacturing labor force = job opportunity
- African Americans from the south moved north into the cities in response to this job opportunity
- in cities such as Harlem, distinct African American communities were formed

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- African American artists, such as poet Langston Hughes, gained national respect
- African American writers form their own literati
- the African American writers, musicians, poets, etc., become a source of pride for African Americans as a whole

-For the first time, both African Americans and white americans had a common experience. It was the first time there was a major cultural influence crossing racial and social borders.
-White Americans would commonly listen to black musicians from Harlem and other black epicenters.
-A few white youths — living in small towns and comfortable suburbs as well as big-city slums — started to see more than mere novelty and excitement in this new primarily black music, began actually to hear their own feelings mirrored in the playing of African-Americans, and to look for ways they might participate in it themselves. In a country in which by law and custom blacks and whites were forbidden to compete on anything like an equal basis in any arena — even boxing (the heavyweight title was then off-limits to black challengers) — these young men were willing to brave a brand new world created by black Americans and in which black musicians remained the most admired figures.

- having something to be proud of, and being able to share it with others who are also proud, is a uniting force . . . African American intellectual and artistic growth provided the source of pride and thus the source of unification

- the success of Renaissance figures like Hughes complimented the work of black rights activists like W.E.B. Du Bois . . . Du Bois even published some of Hughes writings . . . intellectuals and artists like Hughes coming together with activists like Du Bois meant both greater unity between African Americans, and this unity in turn lead to greater African American political strength

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- Notable Renaissance characters - club where African American jazz
musicians could showcase their talents


Langston Hughes:

- wrote poetry, fiction, and plays

- attempted to capture the essence of the African American experience, identity, and culture

- important voice of racial protest and black affirmation
- encouraged pride in African American culture and unity between African Americans
- his novel Not Without Laughter won the Harmon gold medal for literature

Other notable Renaissance figures:

Claude McKay: won Harmon gold Award for Literature for book Home to Harlem
Duke Ellington: generally recognized as one of the greatest figures in the history of jazz

Augusta Savage: sculptor, first African American to be elected to National Association of Women Painters and Sculptors, influenced the rising generation of artists

Charles Gilpin: one of the most highly regarded actors of the 1920s

Breaking Race Barriers:

- white people frequented bars and cabarets formerly frequented only by black people
- Seven Arts: first desegregated white magazine after featuring poems by Claude McKay
- Broadway plays with African Americans among the cast

- according to Langston Hughes in his autobiography
The Big Sea, white people were given "ringside tables to sit and stare at the Negro customers--like amusing animals in the zoo." Hughes video

I, Too by Langston Hughes
I , too, sing America.

I am the darker brother.
They send me to eat in the kitchen
When company comes,
But I laugh,
And eat well,
And grow strong.

I'll be at the table
When company comes.
Nobody'll dare
Say to me,
"Eat in the kitchen,"

They'll see how beautiful I am
And be ashamed--

I, too, am America.

The Harlem Renaissance gave African Americans reason to believe themselves "beautiful", and some white people began to acknowledge the beauty of Renaissance works.


Connection to Today:
- Renaissance works unified African Americans, proved that African Americans could contribute intellectually and artistically to society, and helped to break race barriers . . .
-The Renaissance defined African American culture, which is shown through more recent movies such as Boyz In The Hood.

Rap music today unifies African Americans, is a popular music genre that is important to American culture, and reaches across race lines. Rap is dominated by African American culture, yet, just like during the Harlem Renaissance, both suburban and urban kids of all races are taking up rap. I.E. Sam Adams, Asher Roth.
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