The People Leisure and Cultures of Blacks During the HArlem Renaissance



The People, Leisure, and Culture of Blacks
During the Harlem Renaissance

It seems unfair that the pages of our history books or even the lecturers in majority of classrooms speak very little of the accomplishments of blacks. They speak very little of a period within black history in which many of the greatest musicians, writers, painters, and influential paragon\'’ emerged. This significant period in time was known as the Harlem Renaissance. Blacks attained the opportunity to work at “upper-class” jobs, own their own homes, and establish status among themselves. To no ones surprise, they still were not accepted into the so called “upper-class’ of white society, but they neither worried nor became distressed over the fact. They created societies of their own which opened doors for blacks to attain opportunities that were absolutely unheard of, just before the Renaissance. It was from this same society where the beautiful melodies of jazz emerged. Colleagues and peers of their own race, which created a powerful bond between them, accepted Blacks. The attitudes which prompted the movement were those that came about because of the beginning of : (1) the nationalist tendencies of the time, (2) the movement of black Americans from slavery to freedom and from rural to city living, (3) Afro- Americans renewed pride in their African heritage, and (4) the influences of the period “bounded by the close of the Civil War and the economic collapse of the 1930’s.” From education, to the stage of Broadway, to music, and to a revived race, blacks possessed more intelligence, talent, and ingenuity then they will ever be given credit for and it all began with the Harlem Renaissance.
The Harlem Renaissance, also known as the “New Negro Movement”, was the greatest of literary periods in which creativity and vehemence were clearly expressed. Literature was no longer a white write looking at the black experience from his/her perspective, making judgments and trying to find understanding about the black culture, but of emerging Black American writers that obviously could understand and relate to the context of black life and culture. With these writings came a new feeling of confidence and racial pride which gave these writers the freedom and power to express what it really meant to be black, living within a dominant white society. These writings that vary from novels, autobiographies to poetry behold the unforgettable memories of pain and turmoil and the continuance of the Black American struggle for freedom. The writers of the Renaissance period had to accept a nationalistic perspective so to be able to be totally aware and conscious of the social limitations forced upon the Black American. They also had to understand the frame- work of America to totally understand that they were to be possessions and nothing more. One of the most influential writers of the Renaissance period was James Weldon Johnson. He not only expressed the impact of the characteristic style of the black preacher, but also became a mentor to a majority of black writers who subsequently formed the core of the Harlem group. Just a few of the most eminent writers that emerged from this period was the great Langston Hughes, Zora Neale Hurston, Wallace Thurman, Countee Cullen, Claude McKay, and W.E.B. DuBois.
Along with the outpouring of literary genius, also came a plethora of black art. Black artists contributed to Harlem’s excitement by creating art, which expressed their identity and introduced black themes in to American Modernism. Form the period of 1919-1929, Langston Hughes described the artistic explosion of the times as he wrote the “Harlem was in Vogue”. Like the brilliant musicians, poets, novelists, and dramatists that created such influence during the Renaissance of Harlem came the outstanding visual stories of black painters and sculptors. Unfortunately, whites controlled the black exhibition of black art, which they entered into competitions exclusively for black artists. During the 1930’s the programs were abruptly halted which meant that private support for the artists virtually disappeared. Yet, during the period in which black art emerged, it was the first of the arts to define visual vocabulary for Black Americans.
The artists born within the period of the Harlem Renaissance were spread across the country and knew nothing of one another. As time progressed, they