Harlem Renaissance Importance
|Topics:||Harlem Renaissance, 🗽 American Culture, 🧏🏾♀️ African American Culture|
Table of Contents
A significant aim of the Harlem Renaissance was to reveal that Black people were not the preconceived notions that had been imposed on them before emancipation. This was accomplished greatly by highlighting black artwork and artists that proved the intellect and abilities of African Americans. These art expressions had a considerable influence on the black society, as they not only reversed the negative perception of blacks by non-blacks, enabling them to take a better social position, but also encouraged them to express and lay the groundwork for their political vision, even though they weakened the society economically.
The creative component of the Harlem Renaissance
The media of the Harlem Renaissance, especially the literature and performances, had a substantial part to play in the social movement toward a more favorable attitude toward African Americans. In 1917, in the primary phases of the Harlem Renaissance, the premiere of “Granny Maumee, The Rider of Dreams, Simon the Cryrenian, Plays for a Negro Theatre” drew attention to African American actors who represented their characters as diverse individuals with intense feelings. In contrast to what had previously been depicted in the racist Afro-American and minstrel shows of the 1840s, where blacks were presented as juvenile and immature, this play and others like it discarded these barriers and portrayed African Americans from a new perspective.
This desire to redefine Black Aesthetics in the minds of the public, apart from minstrel shows, was equally evident in the literary part of the Harlem Renaissance. Prominent writers of this era, such as Langston Hughes and James Weldon, incorporated black colloquialisms and speech into their writings to provide whites a glimpse into various dimensions of Black culture. In Hughes’s poetry, which he pens in James Weldon’s well-known book “God’s Trombone”.
The political engagement during the Harlem Renaissance
Moreover, the Harlem Renaissance constituted the basis for black political activism. Due to the continuing racism, African Americans were compelled to acknowledge that bias against them was at the heart of American society. These new insights heightened the social awareness and political engagement of participants in the movement. To the extent that it pushed them to establish black organizations that came together to fight for civil rights. From these organizations, black people experienced the greatest political influence during and after the Harlem Renaissance. Although these organizations only influenced the black community to some degree, as they did not make considerable improvements in the course of the Harlem Renaissance, they did set the stage for subsequent black movements and were a staunch support for the tenacious artists involved in the movement.
Among these organizations was the NAACP, a group formed with the singular goal of advocating for equal rights of all kinds. The organization struggled to pass a federal law banning lynchings and dedicated much of its power to highlighting lynchings of blacks across the United States. In the courts, the NAACP has litigated issues related to disenfranchisement, segregationist regulations, restraining orders, absence of the due process and equal defense in criminal matters. Although some cases were successful in court, the organization, in general, was instrumental in the flourishing of the Harlem Renaissance by supporting and determining the Black Aesthetic, sponsoring up-and-coming artists, and, to some degree, securing famous literary pieces.
The economic situation during the Harlem Renaissance
Most of the organizations launched at the time of the Harlem Renaissance were comparable to the NAACP in that they campaigned for social, political, and economic justice, but organizations like the National Urban League were distinguished in that instead of adopting an integrations stance like the NAACP, they called for the empowerment of African Americans to achieve economic self-sufficiency, equality, authority, and civil rights. Although some cases were successful in court, the organization, in general, was instrumental in the flourishing of the Harlem Renaissance by supporting and determining the Black Aesthetic, sponsoring up-and-coming artists, and, to some degree, securing famous literary pieces. It was precisely because of this dependence on white sponsorship that the Harlem Renaissance had a detrimental effect on the economic situation of the black community.
To address the decline in the well-being of the black community, the NUL recruited black Americans for social worker vacancies, sought to improve educational and workforce prospects for black people, and also funded research on inequalities in housing, health, sanitation and education for black Americans. However, it was succeeding in some areas only because while successful in delivering more jobs to some African Americans, there were noisy districts populated by middle-class black Americans.
On the whole, the Harlem Renaissance was not a critical economic or political phenomenon, although there existed organizations such as the NUL that sustained Harlem through economic philosophies, they never accomplished much to reduce the wealth inequality between blacks and whites. The most considerable influence of the Harlem Renaissance was social, as it introduced a new perspective on blacks to non-blacks, which was one of the most difficult obstacles to addressing racial discrimination in America.