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The Harlem Renaissance is the name given to a cultural movement that was centered on New York City in the 1920s.  This was a movement in which African American artists, musicians, and writers came to prominence.  It is seen as the first major flowering of African American artistic culture in the United States.

The Harlem Renaissance came about for at least four reasons. 

The first reason had to do with World War I.  During that war, large numbers of African Americans began the “Great Migration” away from the segregated South to the cities of the North.  This meant that a larger group of African Americans were living in places where they did not have to worry as much about staying in “their place” in society.

Second, African American intellectuals started to promote ideas of black pride.  People like W.E.B. Du Bois pushed for black rights and black equality.  Inspired by such ideas, the NAACP and other black groups started to publish more works by black authors.

Third, the 1920s were a time of fads.  Among some white Americans, black culture became a fad.  People wanted to experience what they saw as “primitive” culture.  Therefore, they did things like patronizing jazz clubs in black neighborhoods such as Harlem.

Finally, there was some degree of more principled racial liberalism among some white elites.  Some publishing houses, for example, sought out talented black writers and published them. 

All of these factors allowed more black artists and writers to become prominent.  This created the movement now known as the Harlem Renaissance.

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The Harlem Renaissance (originally known as the New Negro Movement) was a period--usually dated between World War I and the mid-1930s--of African American cultural invigoration that included art, literature and music. Though based in New York City's Harlem district, this upheaval of black pride and heritage also could be found in other large American cities "such as Chicago, Washington, D.C., and Philadelphia, (which) also fostered similar but smaller communities of black artists." Paris was also influenced by the movement, with its large numbers of blacks migrating from Africa and the Caribbean. The Harlem Renaissance was born from a migration of blacks to large urban centers following World War I and

... the near collapse of the southern agricultural economy, coupled with a labor shortage in the north, (that) prompted about two million blacks to migrate to northern cities in search of work.

Harlem quickly became a new residential center for African Americans after a large area "was bought by various African-American realtors and a church group." Jazz music flourished in clubs such as the Cotton Club, Apollo Theatre and Savoy Ballroom, where famed musicians such as Duke Ellington, Count Basie, Louis Armstrong, Ella Fitzgerald and Billie Holiday regularly appeared. The new black literature movement was led by writers such as James Weldon Johnson, Claude McKay, W. E. B. Dubois and Langston Hughes.

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