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HARLEM RENAISSANCE


In the 1920's and 30's the upper Manhattan district of Harlem had become the flourishing capital of African-American culture as writers, musicians, artists, photographers, philosophers, and intellectuals created works that probed the black American heritage with a psychological intensity and fierce pride.

Paul Robeson
Paul Robeson
The most prominent figure was W.E.B. Du Bois, the leader of the N.A.A.C.P. and editor of THE CRISIS who served for decades as the community's conscience and a spokesperson for African-American advancement. Other prominent black and white citizens joined forces to publish, patronize, and promote African-American culture, among them Joel and Amy Spingarn, Charlotte Mason, and Carl Van Vechten, who enriched the movement artistically as well as financially. Given his affluence and his position in white mainstream society, Van Vechten's slice-of-life novel NIGGER HEAVEN and his stunning photographs of Harlem and his artist friends did a great deal to win widespread attention for the renaissance that was taking place.

Among the leading creative figures of the period were the writers Langston Hughes, Countee Cullen, Jessie Redmon Fauset, Arna Bontemps, Alain Locke, Jean Toomer, and Zora Neale Hurston; the photographer James Van Der Zee; and the musicians Duke Ellington and Eubie Blake. Jazz, blues, and ragtime exerted a profound influence on the literature of the period from the cadences of Langston Hughes to the later prose of James Baldwin, and Harlem's legendary cabarets, The Cotton Club and The Apollo Theater became meccas for the new music enticing visitors in the larger African-American artistic experience.


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