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The Harlem Renasissance [imagemap with 8 links]

The Harlem Renaissance was a period of flourishing artistic expression and cultural activity during the 1920s and early 1930s.

Centered in Harlem, New York City, it was an era when some of America's foremost black writers, artists and musicians emerged as a significant dynamic within American culture.

Shepherded by the leadership and brillance of W.E.B. Du Bois, and promoted by Carl Van Vechten, the movement grew in strength. With the publication of The New Negro in 1925, Alain Locke became the Renaissance's leading ideologist.

Four major writers who established their reputations at this time were Langston Hughes, Claude McKay, Jean Toomer and Countee Cullen.

Among many other prominent writers were Zora Neale Hurston, Jessie Redmon Fauset, Arna Bontemps, Sterling A. Brown and Nella Larsen.

The Renaissance came to an end with the economic depression of the 1930s, but the rich literary and artistic development begun during that time left a significant legacy.

Carl Van Vechten (1880-1966)

Novelist, photgrapher and music and art critic. A white man from Iowa, Van Vechten was one of the first critics to acknowledge and laud the writers of the Harlem Renaissance. He is known for a series of novels dealing with the cultural life of New York in the '20s, as well as for his photographs of many of the creative people he met in Harlem.

1922 - Peter Whiffle

1923 - The Blind Bow-Boy

1924 - The Tattooed Countess

1925 - Firecrackers

1926 - Nigger Heaven

His most highly acclaimed work, it takes place in the exotic world of Harlem's nightclubs and soirees.

1928 - Spider Boy

1930 - Parties

1932 - Sacred and Profane Memoirs

W.E.B. Du Bois (c. 1868-1963)

Civil rights leader and writer. Born in Massachusetts and educated at Fisk and Harvard, Du Bois taught economics and history at Atlanta University from 1896 to 1910 and from 1932 to 1944. He was one of the first to urge total economic, political and social equality for blacks. He helped to found (in 1909) the National Negro Committee, which later became the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) and he edited the magazine The Crisis for 24 years. In 1961, at the age of 93, he joined the Communist Party. He died in Ghana after becoming a Ghanaian citizen.

1903 - The Souls of Black Folks

Sketches and verses

1909 - John Brown

1915 - The Negro

1920 - Darkwater
Sketches and verses

1924 - The Gift of Black Folk

1928 - Dark Princess

1935 - Black Reconstruction

1940 - Dusk of Dawn
"The autobiography of a concept of race."

1945 - Color and Democracy:
            Colonies and Peace

1945 - The Encyclopedia
            of the Negro

1968 - Autobiography

Alain Locke (1886-1954)

Locke, a black American editor, critic, philosopher, art historian and professor of philosophy at Howard University from 1918 to 1953, announced the arrival of the Harlem Renaissance in a special illustrated edition of The Survey magazine in March 1925.

1925 - The New Negro

A compendium of essays, stories, a play and comprehensive bibliographies of black American writers, The New Negro served as a proclamation of the Harlem Renaissance. Locke felt that the black artists' collective spirit would serve to enrich American culture.

1927 - Plays of Negro Life
Edited with Montgomery Gregory

1936 - The Negro and His Music

1936 - Negro Art: Past and Present

1940 - The Negro in Art:
            A Pictorial Record of
            the Negro Artist and
            of the Negro Theme
            in Art

Langston Hughes (1902-1967)

Langston Hughes: a Biography

A Hughes Timeline

Claude McKay | 1890-1948

Poet and novelist, born in Jamaica, McKay came to the United States in 1912. He was the first black best-selling author with Home to Harlem.

1922 - Harlem Shadows


1928 - Home to Harlem

1929 - Banjo: A Story without a Plot

1933 - Banana Bottom

1937 - A Long Way from Home

Jean Toomer (1894-1967)

Jean (Nathan Eugene) Toomer was born in Washington D.C. and attended the University of Wisconsin and City College of New York. He worked for a time as the administrator of a black rural school in Georgia, a setting which offered background for his most well-known work, Cane.

1922 - Cane

An experimental collection of poems, sketches, stories and a novella. Proclaimed a central work of the Renaissance, Cane's title references the cane fields of the poor black South.

1931 - Essentials
A collection of sayings

1980 - The Wayward and the Seeking
Works unpublished during Toomer's life, collected and edited by Darwin T. Turner

Countee Cullen (1903-1946)

Cullen, a poet, novelist, critic and dramatist, grew up in Harlem and attended New York University and Harvard. His work examined contemporary racial issues.

1925 - Color

A lyrical exploration of Cullen's African heritage

1927 - Copper Sun

1927 - The Ballad of the Brown
            Girl: An Old Ballad Retold

1929 - The Black Christ,
            and Other Poems
Written while in France on a Guggenheim scholarship

1932 - One Way to Heaven
Cullen's only novel, a social comedy of life in Harlem

1935 - The Medea and Some Poems
A collection of sonnets and short lyrics together with a translation of Euripides's tragedy (in prose with the choruses in verse).

1940 - The Lost Zoo
For children

1942 - My Lives and How I
            Lost Them
For children

1947 - On These I Stand: An
            Anthology of the Best Poems
            of Countee Cullen

1991 - My Soul's High Song:
            The Collected Writings of
            Countee Cullen, Voice of the
            Harlem Renaissance

Zora Neale Hurston | 1903?-1960

Novelist, dramatist and anthropologist. Hurston is considered the first black American to collect and publish African American folklore.

1931 - Mule Bone

With Langston Hughes, a drama

1934 - Jonah's Gourd Vine

1935 - Mules and Men
Short stories

1937 - Their Eyes were Watching God
Considered her masterpiece and a feminist classic.

1938 - Tell My Horse

1939 - Moses: Man of the Mountain
An allegorical novel of American slavery

1942 - Dust Tracks on a Road
An autobiography

1948 - Seraph on the Suwanee

1979 - I Love Myself When I
            am Laughing
A collection of writings edited by Alice Walker

1984 - Spunk
Short stories

Jessie Redmon Fauset (1882-1961)

Novelist and editor. Born in New Jersey, educated at Cornell and the Sorbonne. Editor of W.E.B. Du Bois's magazine The Crisis. Her novels all portray the experiences of black women and all emphasize the need to accept one's heritage rather than to try to retreat from it.

1924 - There is Confusion

1929 - Plum Bun

1931 - The Chinaberry Tree

1934 - Comedy: American Style

Arna Bontemps (1902-1973)

Novelist and poet. Born in Louisiana and raised in California, Bontemps graduated from the University of Chicago. He spent much of his career working at Fisk University as Librarian where he created a notable archive for the study of African American culture. His writing depicts the life of black people in America.

1931 - God Sends Sunday

Later dramatized by Countee Cullen as St. Louis Woman in 1946.

1936 - Black Thunder
One of his best known works, Black Thunder is an historical novel about slaves and rebellion in Virginia in 1800.

1939 - Drums at Dusk

1945 - They Seek a City
With Jack Conroy

1948 - The Story of the Negro

1951 - Sam Patch
With Jack Conroy
For children

1958 - The Book of Negro Folklore
Co-editor with Langston Hughes

1961 - 100 Years of Negro Freedom

1972 - The Harlem Renaissance
            Remembered: Essays

Sterling A. Brown | 1901-1989

Poet, folklorist and critic. Born in Washington D.C., he was educated at Williams College and Harvard University. He taught at Lincoln University (Missouri) and at Fisk University (Nashville) and became a professor of English at Howard University in 1929. In 1984 he became Poet Laureate of Washington D.C.

1932 - Southern Road

1937 - The Negro in American Fiction

1939 - Negro Poetry and Drama

1941 - The Negro Caravan

co-editor with Arthur P. Davis and Ulysses S. Lee.
The Negro Caravan was considered the definitive collection of African American literature.

1975 - The Last Ride of Wild Bill,
            and Eleven Narrative Poems

1980 - The Collected Poems
edited by Michael S. Harper

Nella Larsen (1891-1964)

Novelist and short story writer, born in Chicago to a Danish mother and a Caribbean father. With the support of Carl Van Vechten, she published two novels -- both studies of mulatto women and their experiences -- praised for their contribution to the Harlem Renaissance. Her literary success eventually faded and she died in obscurity.

1928 - Quicksand

1929 - Passing

Essays + Interviews | Who's Who | The Harlem Renaissance
A Hughes Timeline | Works by L. Hughes | Teacher's Guide
The Forum | Links and Bibliography

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