Why was the Harlem Renaissance important in the lives of African Americans?

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pohnpei397 eNotes educator| Certified Educator

It is not completely clear that the Harlem Renaissance would have been important in the lives of each and every African American person.  This was, after all, an artistic movement.  It did not do anything to give African Americans more civil or political rights.  It did little to improve the economic lot of the majority of African Americans.  How, then, can we say that it was important to African Americans?

If we are to argue that it was, we should look at its effect on people’s pride and sense of self-worth.  Before the Harlem Renaissance, it would have been easy for African Americans to believe that they had nothing that was of value to white society.  Even if they did not believe that this was true, they would still have felt the weight of white society’s rejection of them as a people.  The Harlem Renaissance helped to reduce the degree to which they felt that way.  During the Harlem Renaissance, African American forms of cultural expression came to be accepted and even highly praised by white society.  Now, African Americans could feel that they had been validated to some degree.  They could feel that they and their culture were valuable.  This would have given them more pride and more of a sense that their race was not inferior.

Thus, the Harlem Renaissance was important to African Americans even if it did not help most of them in any tangible ways.