An explosion of culture in Harlem
The first stage of the Harlem Renaissance started in the late 1910s. 1917 saw the premiere of Three Plays for a Negro Theatre. These plays, written by white playwright Ridgely Torrence, featured African-American actors conveying complex human emotions and yearnings. They rejected the stereotypes of the blackface and minstrel show traditions. James Weldon Johnson in 1917 called the premieres of these plays "the most important single event in the entire history of the Negro in the American Theater." Another landmark came in 1919, when the poet Claude McKay published his militant sonnet, "If We Must Die". Although the poem never alluded to race, to African-American readers heard its note of defiance in the face of racism and the nationwide race riots and lynchings then taking place. By the end of the First World War, the fiction of James Weldon Johnson and the poetry of Claude McKay were describing the reality of contemporary African-American life in America.
In 1917 Hubert Harrison, "The Father of Harlem Radicalism," founded the Liberty League and The Voice, the first organization and the first newspaper, respectively, of the "New Negro Movement". Harrison's organization and newspaper were political, but also emphasized the arts (his newspaper had "Poetry for the People" and book review sections). In 1927, in the Pittsburgh Courier, Harrison challenged the notion of the renaissance. He argued that the "Negro Literary Renaissance" notion overlooked "the stream of literary and artistic products which had flowed uninterruptedly from Negro writers from 1850 to the present", and said the so-called "renaissance" was largely a white invention.
The Harlem Renaissance grew out of the changes that had taken place in the African-American community since the abolition of slavery, as well as the expansion of communities in the North. These accelerated as a consequence of World War I and the great social and cultural changes in early 20th century United States. Industrialization was attracting people to cities from rural areas and gave rise to a new mass culture. Contributing factors leading to the Harlem Renaissance were the Great Migration of African Americans to northern cities, which concentrated ambitious people in places where they could encourage each other, and the First World War, which had created new industrial work opportunities for tens of thousands of people. Factors leading to the decline of this era include the Great Depression.
A new way of playing the piano called the Harlem Stride Style was created during the Harlem Renaissance, and helped blur the lines between the poor Negros and socially elite Negros. The traditional jazz band was composed primarily of brass instruments and was considered a symbol of the south, but the piano was considered an instrument of the wealthy. With this instrumental modification to the existing genre, the wealthy blacks now had more access to jazz music. Its popularity soon spread throughout the country and was consequently at an all time high. Innovation and liveliness were important characteristics of performers in the beginnings of jazz. Jazz musicians at the time like Fats Waller, Duke Ellington, Jelly Roll Morton, and Willie "The Lion" Smith were very talented and competitive, and were considered to have laid the foundation for future musicians of their genre.
During this time period, the musical style of blacks was becoming more and more attractive to whites. White novelists, dramatists and composers started to exploit the musical tendencies and themes of African-Americans in their works. Composers used poems written by African American poets in their songs, and would implement the rhythms, harmonies and melodies of African-American music—such as blues, spirituals, and jazz—into their concert pieces. Negros began to merge with Whites into the classical world of musical composition. The first Negro male to gain wide recognition as a concert artist in both his region and internationally was Roland Hayes. He trained with Arthur Calhoun in Chattanooga, and at Fisk University in Nashville. Later, he studied with Arthur Hubbard in Boston and with George Henshel and Amanda Ira Aldridge in London, England. He began singing in public as a student, and toured with the Fisk Jubilee Singers in 1911.
Characteristics and themes
Characterizing the Harlem Renaissance was an overt racial pride that came to be represented in the idea of the New Negro, who through intellect and production of literature, art, and music could challenge the pervading racismand stereotypes to promote progressive or socialist politics, and racial and social integration. The creation of art and literature would serve to "uplift" the race.
There would be no uniting form singularly characterizing the art that emerged out of the Harlem Renaissance. Rather, it encompassed a wide variety of cultural elements and styles, including a Pan-African perspective, "high-culture" and "low-culture" or "low-life," from the traditional form of music to the blues and jazz, traditional and new experimental forms in literature such as modernism and the new form of jazz poetry. This duality meant that numerous African-American artists came into conflict with conservatives in the black intelligentsia, who took issue with certain depictions of black life.
Some common themes represented during the Harlem Renaissance were the influence of the experience of slavery and emerging African-American folk traditions on black identity, the effects of institutional racism, the dilemmas inherent in performing and writing for elite white audiences, and the question of how to convey the experience of modern black life in the urban North.
The Harlem Renaissance was one of primarily African-American involvement. It rested on a support system of black patrons, black-owned businesses and publications. However, it also depended on the patronage of white Americans, such as Carl Van Vechten and Charlotte Osgood Mason, who provided various forms of assistance, opening doors which otherwise would have remained closed to the publication of work outside the black American community. This support often took the form of patronage or publication.
There were other whites interested in so-called "primitive" cultures, as many whites viewed black American culture at that time, and wanted to see such "primitive" in the work coming out of the Harlem Renaissance. As with most fads, some people may have been exploited in the rush for publicity.
Interest in African-American lives also generated experimental but lasting collaborative work, such as the all-black productions of George Gershwin's opera Porgy and Bess, and Virgil Thomson and Gertrude Stein's Four Saints in Three Acts. In both productions the choral conductor Eva Jessye was part of the creative team. Her choir was featured in Four Saints. The music world also found white band leaders defying racist attitudes to include the best and the brightest African-American stars of music and song in their productions.
The African Americans used art to prove their humanity and demand for equality. The Harlem Renaissance led to more opportunities for blacks to be published by mainstream houses. Many authors began to publish novels, magazines and newspapers during this time. The new fiction attracted a great amount of attention from the nation at large. Some authors who became nationally known were Jean Toomer, Jessie Fauset, Claude McKay, Zora Neale Hurston, James Weldon Johnson, Alain Locke, Eric D. Walrond and Langston Hughes.
The Harlem Renaissance helped lay the foundation for the post-World War II phase of the Civil Rights Movement. Moreover, many black artists who rose to creative maturity afterward were inspired by this literary movement.
The Renaissance was more than a literary or artistic movement, it possessed a certain sociological development—particularly through a new racial consciousness—through racial integration, as seen in the Back to Africamovement led by Marcus Garvey. W. E. B. Du Bois' notion of "twoness", introduced in The Souls of Black Folk (1903), explored a divided awareness of one's identity that was a unique critique of the social ramifications of racial consciousness.,,,,,,,more on http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Harlem_Renaissance
Harlem 1934. Le Jazz coule à flot, le champagne aussi. On y dance, on s’amuse. C'est la Belle Epoque à L'américaine. Comme le chante Claude Nougaro "c'est tout noir et c'est tout blanc». Harlem aujourd'hui connait une renaissance qui rappelle le bon vieux temps mais à la seule différence que la France y est dûment représentée. Une nouvelle cuisine, de nouveaux restaurants français ouvrent chaque jour leur porte à des consommateurs à la recherche d'étonnantes nouveautés culinaires. Marcus Samuelsson, la vedette de la cuisine noire d'antan, fait ses preuves avec Le Red Rooster et devient un très grand succès à New York. Juste en dessous, chez Ginny's, l'Alcazar New Yorkais, on y trouve "Le Cabaret Noir" chaque Mercredi à 20h...On y chante "Paris", "La Mer", "La Vie en Rose». On célèbre la France avec des touches de Jazz, et tout comme en 1934 c'est le retour à la dance, c'est là où l'on s'amuse et ou une revue essentiellement noire séduit chaque mercredi une foule de New Yorkais venue des quatre coins de la ville pour y applaudir Celia Faussart (Les Nubians), reine de la nuit qui chaque mercredi entraine son public à la fois vers une nostalgie bien parisienne mais également dans un nouvelle frénésie de chansons et de mise en scène à l'américaine.