The Harlem Renaissance African Americans make their voices heard


By 1920, 5 million of the country's 12 million African Americans lived in cities.

They fled generations of racism, poverty, and sharecropping to start new lives in urban areas.

Harlem, NY becomes the cultural and financial center of African American life. For the first time, there were dozens of African American business owners, artists, bankers, lawyers, doctors, and musicians reaching African American customers.

"A Great Day in Harlem," 1958 by Art Kane.

African Americans entered the arts in a way they had previously been barred from. They were able to make money performing their own for their own audiences.

Some of the art still stuck with old, racist stereotypes.

The Great Migration series, by Jacob Lawrence.

The Great Migration series by Jacob Lawrence.

"Renaissance" literally means "rebirth." Can also refer to an explosion of arts, culture, and self-expression.

Precursors to the Harlem Renaissance

Marcus Garvey, a political leader, writer, businessman. Helped found the idea of "PanAfricanism," which emphasized people of African descent returning to Africa, kicking out the European colonists, and restoring the continent.

Founded the Universal Negro Improvement Association, which had more than a million members. Founded the Black Star Lines, which was a series of black-owned boats.

W.E.B. DuBois, historian, sociologist, and writer. Wanted full civil rights for African Americans and thought it would be gained by "the Talented Tenth," who were focused and smart enough to win it.

Helped found the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP). His book of essays The Souls of Black Folk is one of the most important books about race in America.

"Double-consciousness" is the experience marginalized people go through. They are able to see themselves but also see how the dominant society sees them.

Unprecedented fame for African American artists.

Paul Robeson, the son of a slave, was a professional athlete, singer, actor, and orator. Was very involved in Civil Rights struggles for decades until he was "blacklisted" as Communist in the 1950s.

Jazz emerges from the African American community in New Orleans and soon becomes one of the only truly American forms of art. Characterized by multiple rhythms, improvisation, call and response, and "swing notes."

Louis Armstrong becomes the most influential jazz musician in history.

Bessie Smith, one of the most popular singers of the time. Was the highest paid African American artist in the world.

Duke Ellington led the orchestra at The Cotton Club and became one of the nation's greatest composers.

And of course...the poets.

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