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I think that the Harlem Renaissance is in many ways overrated. I do not think that it changed the ways most whites thought about blacks. If it did have an impact on black self esteem, that impact was not really seen for decades to come. (Please not that your textbook may say something else so you may want to check to see if it has a different opinion than I do.)
After the 1920s, the status of blacks in the United States was hardly different than it was before the 1920s. The first real steps towards black rights were not made until after WWII. Given this, it is hard to say that the Harlem Renaissance had much impact on white attitudes. Whites continued, in my opinion, to see blacks as inferiors who might be good for entertainment, but not really for much else.
Since this assignment is for a history class I think that it is important that you use as many facts as you can in your assignment. The Harlem Renaissance occurred in the 1920's and 1930's and was known at the time as the "New Negro Movement." This time period for African Americans emphasized intellectual growth. This group of people become more creative, becoming involved in the music and arts. I believe that this really aided in helping them increase their self-esteem.
One of the reasons that it happened during this time is because many blacks were moving from the south into the cities in the north. There was an urban explosion.
I think the way that it may have had an impact on the way that whites viewed blacks is because black music was exploding during this time.
One of the most powerful elements in the 1920's was the emergence of the Harlem Renaissance. It was one of the first times in American History that a concerted effort was made to bring out the voices of people of color on a large social scale. Thinkers like Hughes and Hurston brought out in full intensity what it meant to be Black in America in the time period. At a time where Black culture was perceived with curiosity and without a sense of gravity, this power was provided by the Harlem Renaissance, as thinkers sought to bring out the African American predicament and, in a larger sense, what it meant to be a hyphenated American and how that experience is uniquely distinctive in its own right.
While Hubert Harrison in the 1927 Pittsburgh Courier challenged the notion of a renaissance as principally a white invention, he did recognize the "flowering of Negro literature" as James Weldon Johnson preferred to call it. The burgeoning of creative efforts in music and literature came with the massive migration of African Americans to the North. There, they lived in sections of large cities of the United States, giving voice to their dreams and desires through the arts.
By the 1910s, the black community had established a middle class, and a greater market grew for their art, literature, Jazz, and the Blues. With the premiere of Three Plays for a Negro Theatre, written by a white playwright, Ridgely Torrence, black actors played roles with human emotions and feelings, not stereotypes of blackface or minstrel show traditions.
Soon, the musical style of piano jazz and blues became very popular with the white community. White novelists and composers began to exploit the musical tendencies and themes of the blacks into their works. And, whites began to attend the Cotton Club, the Savoy Ballroom, and the Apollo Theatre, much to the dislike of many of the black community as these were venues where blacks felt free to express themselves without restraint and as a unified group.
The first several decades of the 20th century saw many African Americans moving north to rid themselves of Jim Crow segregation. The Jazz Age brought a new sense of self to many African Americans creating the movement referred to as the Harlem Renaissance. African Americans experienced a cultural consciousness reading the works of Langston Hughes, Claude McKay, and Countee Cullen. In addition, the music of Duke Ellington, Louis Armstrong, and Bessie Smith became popular among both blacks and whites during this time.
(Food for thought...interesting how art and music seem to hold the possibilities to reconnect the disconnect of the human experience.)
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