Why was african american culture fasionable in the 1920's?  Why was african american culture fasionable in the 1920's?  

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Ashley Kannan eNotes educator| Certified Educator

I think that both of the previous answers were quite accurate.  Indeed, part of the 1920's was this fascination with fads and different modes of expression.  At the same time, this was quite surface and quite superficial in the time period.  It was at a point where everyone was trying to be "independent" in the eyes of another.  This same fascination with "being different" in a conformist sense allowed the interest in Black culture of the time period.  This was a superficial interest at best, as there was little in the "Jazz Age" which would allow a deep seeded and honest reflection about the predicament of people of color at the time.  There was an appreciation of the music of Louis Armstrong or Duke Ellington, a certain praise for Josephine Baker, and the perception that Harlem was "different," but in the end, the perception of Black culture was predicated upon the same principles of a fad or fashion in a mass consumer social and economic order.  In all honesty, there should be some level of analysis as to which is worse:  For a culture to be neglected or treated in a trivial manner, on the same level as clothing or hair styles.  Regardless of its perception of White Culture, the emergence of the Harlem Renaissance writers as well as the articulation of what is as opposed to what can be is one of the lasting legacies of Black culture in the 1920s, which outlasts the thoughts of those who saw it as merely fashionable.

pohnpei397 eNotes educator| Certified Educator

In my opinion, much of what was going on is that white Americans were looking for something exotic and new.  So I see this as sort of a condescending, "let's go check out what those crazy black people are doing" kind of a time.  People were trying all sorts of new things during this time (swallowing goldfish, packing themselves into phone booths) and I think black culture was just another fad.

In a way, I think it is similar to what happens today with black rappers.  So many of them are popular among suburban white kids.  I think it is a way of sampling something that seems exotic and dangerous and I think that the fashion for black culture in the '20s was similar.

brettd eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Not sure why the poor ratings, I think both answers above are spot on.  In addition, I think the popularity of jazz music, which originated with African-American musicians in cities like New Orleans and Chicago, became popular with young people and the nightclub set of the 1920's. As the first purely American form of music, whites and blacks took to it as their own.

There was also a rebelliousness about the 20's that went along with drinking during prohibition and flappers' short skirts, where anything shocking to society, like imitating or participating in African-American culture, was fashionable.

litteacher8 eNotes educator| Certified Educator
The Harlem Renaissance did produce some remarkable art of all genres. The Roaring Twenties were all about fashion, If a trend-setter found the African American art interesting, others would follow. It was quaint and charming, but they never saw the artists as equals.
mkcapen1 | Student

African American culture was hopping.  Harlem became the rage.  The Civil War was over and many African Americans had immigrated to the North. In he 1920's the voice of African Americans began to emerge through literature, art, dance, and music.  Harlem, New York became the place for white socialites to go and enjoy dancing and listening to Billi Holloday and many other great artists an singers.

"The New Negro Movement" which was later dubbed the Harlem Renaissance redefined the expressions of African Americans. African-Americans suddenly felt free to celebrate their heritage. Poet Laureate like Langston Hughes appealed to the white people as well as the black people.

One thing that helped to created a link between the white folks crossing over into the African American enlightenment was that many young Americans had money and time on their hands.  They were seeking new thrills and searching for something exciting.  Harlem and the wonderful entertainers who performed there provided the outlet that they were looking for.