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About 100 years later, Harlem Renaissance impact still being celebrated

Harlem Renaissance boomed during the Roaring ’20s

(Photo by George Rinhart/Corbis via Getty Images)
(Photo by George Rinhart/Corbis via Getty Images) (Getty)

This is a 100th anniversary celebration so great, that it will literally last years.

That might sound contradictory and impossible by math standards, but that partly explains the greatness of the Harlem Renaissance.

Roughly 100 years ago, a mass migration of people from the south caused rapid population increases in several northern cities, including Harlem, New York.

Many black soldiers also returned home after the end of World War I and settled in Harlem, which became the cultural Mecca for the black community in the United States.

The result was the birth of the Harlem Renaissance, a cultural, artistic, social and intellectual explosion that spanned the entire Roaring ’20s.

An exact date or the year that the Harlem Renaissance was born is for the most part unknown, but 100-year anniversary celebrations have taken place the past two years and more are on tap for this year, according to the New York Daily News.

Here were the a few of the significant contributors to the Harlem Renaissance:

  • Langston Hughes. He was a brilliant writer, poet and social activist who specialized in what was called “jazz poetry,” poetry that can be accompanied by jazz music. One of his most recognized works was a poem called “Madam and the Minister,” which spoke of the mood toward religion in the Harlem Renaissance.
  • Claude McKay. Another recognized poet, McKay wrote several poems about racism and the hardships black men faced, while in the process, bringing awareness to civil rights.
  • Zora Neale Hurston. One of the writers of the Harlem Renaissance, Hurston was a key contributor to a magazine called “Fire!!,” which highlighted young artists and writers of the time period. Hurston, in 1937, eventually went on to write a novel called “Their Eyes Were Watching God,” an influential book of 20th century American literature.
  • Various jazz artists. People from around the area and country came to Harlem’s nightclubs to see artists such as Duke Ellington, Jelly Roll Morton, Eubie Blake, Noble Sissle, Luckey Roberts, Fats Waller and Bessie Smith perform jazz tunes that further defined the cultural significance of the Harlem Renaissance.

While the Harlem Renaissance was a period that featured creations and performance by prominent black writers and entertainers, white patrons also were fans of the artistry created in Harlem, which further contributed to the cultural impact the period had.

There no doubt will be good celebrations in 2020, but, given the Harlem Renaissance was more than just a one-year movement, the tributes will be lasting for years to come.


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