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Harlem Renaissance (Jazz musicians and the influence it had during the Harlem Renaissance)

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    Research paper

“What was the Harlem Renaissance?” More importantly, “What fostered and maintained the phenomenon of this
artistic movement, the legacy of which extends into the fabric of the 21 st century?” An examination of how the
overlapping arenas of journalism, poetry, novels, music, dance, and the fine arts intersected with the social and political
tenor of the times can reveal some answers to these questions. What are the connections between the Jazz Age—the
arts—and the Age of Prosperity—economics? How did our culturally pluralistic society develop and change between the
First and Second World Wars? Your job as a researcher is to examine the evidence of the Harlem Renaissance’s
creative products and to focus on one of the cultural, sociological, political, and/or moral/ethical issues raised by their
existence. Once focused on a specific topic, you will need to interpret, analyze, and evaluate that topic and the issues
surrounding it as it was understood in its own era and as it is understood in our late 20 th / early 21 st century society.
Your research paper will be about a focused topic of your choice that is directly related to the theme of the
Harlem Renaissance. As a class, we will be exploring various texts in The Harlem Renaissance: A Brief History with
Documents (Ferguson) or an equivalent anthology, Black Voices: An Anthology of African-American Literature
(Chapman), and possibly in Double-Take: A Revisionist Harlem Renaissance Anthology (Patton and Honey). We will then
critique these texts against the social/political/cultural fabric of the dynamic period between the two world wars. Once you
have chosen a topic that is focused enough for a 10-12- page research paper, you will analyze that topic as it played out in
the early 20 th century and as it is understood in our early 21 st century world. Your final research proposal must be
approved in advance.
To be successful, you will write a well-developed, persuasively argumentative research paper of 10-12 pages (not
including the cover page, outline pages, or work-cited pages), in which you will, modeling Lester,
1. Research the status of your topic in the 21 st century and during the last 50 years or so. Focus on an issue or
topic raised by the Harlem Renaissance and develop a working hypothesis to use as you begin to research your topic.
For instance, if you choose the topic of theater, you would need to identify a particular playwright or actor on whom
you can focus. Then you would investigate, organize and analyze all those factors that are associated with that
playwright or actor from the vantage point of the phase of the Harlem Renaissance during which the artist worked,
and the phase during which the plays were produced, or in some cases not produced. Then you would need to define
terms and set limits on your area of investigation—Harlem Renaissance drama needs to be understood in terms of
the theatrical mood and style of the early 20 th century, not in terms of present day post-modern drama. Along the way,
be sure to ask yourself good questions such as “What elements of the politics and aesthetics of the New Negro
Movement contributed to the creative decisions this artist made, and which were ignored by the artist?” Such
questions and their answers will give focus, specificity, and depth of field to your analysis.
2. Evaluate the status of your topic in the 21 st century and range of opinions surrounding it. The analysis and
assessment of the Harlem Renaissance was continuous during its heyday and has continued since its waning.
During the Renaissance itself, c. 1917-1939, critics abounded; after 1939, the assessment periods can be divided for
our purposes into two areas: 1940-1979 and 1980-present. In order to achieve depth within your analysis, you must
choose a focus point and stick to it, but in order to achieve breadth of analysis, you should try to research and include
assessment and analysis from ideally two of these three periods. Do not let yourself be diverted by ideas closely
related to your main area of inquiry or you will end up with a report full of glittering generalities. Aim for a well-focused
topic, depth of analysis, breadth of research, and a logical path of support for your ideas.
3. Classify, analyze, and synthesize the information available at any given time from primary information sources,
such as reports, records, speeches, case studies, market research, technical studies, documents, and so forth.
4. Review the coverage of your topic by various branches of the mass media (TV, newspapers, and magazines) as well
as by books, alternative periodicals, and scholarly journals. Be sure to explore the area of alternative media
thoroughly. This will be an important hallmark of a balanced, persuasive argument. Be aware of bias and carefully
evaluate the reliability of all sources. Check all assumptions (yours and theirs) regularly. Also look for primary
sources that address your focused topic.
5. Develop an arguable thesis, based on the foregoing analysis of information. Your argument in support of your thesis
should be logical and should involve mature interpretation, analysis, and evaluation of an issue. Try to connect your
thesis in some way to how and why the Renaissance developed and flourished, and how its influence spread in our
society even into the 21 st century. This portion of your research paper is critical to its success since it provides the
argumentative focus for your analysis. Your paper is not a simple report nor are you able to "prove" anything. Your
paper should be a well-supported, reasonable argument of your position about 1) how a particular aspect of the
Harlem Renaissance developed; 2) what this phenomenon tells us about life in early 20 th century America; and 3)

what it tells us about society in general and the universal human condition.
6. Defend your argument to a broad audience—all research students and instructors at EdCC and beyond. Your
audience will include those who agree with you already, those who disagree with you already, and everyone in
between, including those who have absolutely no opinion on the topic. It is your responsibility to recognize the
opposition, to anticipate possible objections, and to address the opposing point of view in some way. Reasonable
concession of a point is often helpful. Use a persuasive, reasonable tone of voice, avoid overstatement, and provide
specific, detailed evidence as support for any general assertions.
7. Make certain that your thesis “anticipates your conclusion” and that it sets “in motion the examination of facts,” all
of which are properly documented (Lester Writing Research Papers 23).

Harlem Renaissance (Jazz musicians and the influence it had during the Harlem Renaissance)

Harlem Renaissance, which began in the 20s and lasted until the 40s, for the first time brought the “black culture” (music, theater, poetry, history, etc.) to the forefront of American cultural life. As it is known, the Renaissance - this is the era of spiritual and cultural prosperity, symbolizing the transition from the Middle Ages to modern times. Cultural Movement “Harlem Renaissance” received its name in the first place because the center of the movement was one of the boroughs of New York City, Harlem, home to African Americans; and secondly, because namely at this time African-American culture reached its heyday, that gave the world a lot of really talented and famous writers like Langston Hughes, Claude McKay, Zora Neale Hurston, such great artists as Louis Armstrong and others. Cultural movement of Harlem Renaissance had a great impact on US culture as a whole. At that time a new image of an African American appeared: an educated, talented, gifted person. Harlem Renaissance also paved the way for the further struggle of African-American people for their rights. Emergence in New York of the largest Negro Harlem district has created a broad and not ceasing to this day pilgrimage of white Americans in its entertainment establishments. Of course, still remaining belonging of Harlem culture, blues nevertheless already in the 20s emerged from the closed environment of the Negro environment. Although the significance of the Harlem Renaissance phenomenon was different evaluated by researchers, its role as a symbol of success, as the personification of youth, brilliance, talent, self-esteem, racial pride is undeniable. In many ways, it was not the Renaissance (rebirth), but the birth of an entirely new cultural consciousness.

“Renaissance of Harlem was the heyday of African-American Culture. Before himit the culture of the Negro and its impact on the vast American culture did not receive a conscious recognition” - said Laban Carrick Hill, the author of a book on the cultural history of the Harlem Renaissance (Hill, 2009) the Harlem Renaissance Development led to recognition of the significant impact of Negro culture in American culture America first saw is not derogatory stereotype of the black decades engrafted in American culture, and the so-called “new Negro” - educated, highly cultured member of a truly decent society and the Harlem renaissance was the first step towards this recognition of their favorites center of New York's Harlem district, is a cultural movement refers to the 20-ies- early 30-ies of the last century.

Laban Carrick Hill talks about the connection of the movement with the influential black historian and sociologist William Dubois: “History of the Harlem Renaissance - it is also the story of the life of DuBois. He actually started it all, raising the question of what Negros should expect from American society. He played a leading role in attracting people to Harlem, to support them in transforming their activities, and music in the public domain. He was behind the creation of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP). He was the soul of all that took place in Harlem”. Significant promoting to the activities of Dubois was provided by Aaron Douglas, who, according to Hill, served as the clearest embodiment of the philosophy of “new Negro”: “He was called “an artist of the Harlem Renaissance”. He created the jazz-inspired illustration and painting, in particular, two murals for the public library at 125th Street. They still remain there. This amazing product is called “Aspects of Negro Life”. It traces the history of African-American culture: the black continent, garbage out slaves, slavery, the period after the Civil War - and Harlem, jazz era” (Hill, 2009).

As for the performing arts, the greatest of all jazz musicians was Louis Armstrong who stood at the origins of jazz solo performance. “Today, we somehow do not remember, - says Hill. - We know about the last decade of his life. But in the 20 years it was he who created jazz in its current form”. In the literature, the Harlem Renaissance was the embodiment of diverse - from Zora Neale Hurston with her book What color to be to the Langston Hughes poem Me too, in which the author refers to the place in America. “Through music, poetry, art, America came to the realization that it is not without blacks Americ”. This lovely quote always comes to mind when I think about the Harlem Renaissance - said Laban Carrick Hill. - It is taken from an essay by Ralph Ellison called “By what would be America without black”. According to Ellison, whatever the true American is - he was always a little bit black ...” (Hill, 2009).

The chronological scope of this cultural movement is from 1919 to 1929. After the Civil War, the main result of which was the abolition of slavery and the adoption by the US Congress January 31, 1865 XIII Amendment to the Constitution, to eliminate slavery nationwide, the country faced a serious task of finding ways to integrate the black community in the US society. A large mass of white people did not recognize African Americans and their rights. The black population was subjected to racial discrimination, class oppression, humiliation, terror. This is evidenced by the activities of the secret society of the Ku Klux Klan, arrange the terrible massacre of blacks, lynching, segregation spread in the south. Also living conditions of the black population were heavy. Due to all these factors, African-American population of the beginning of the mass migration from the South to the North, where living conditions have provided more opportunities for the development of this part of American society. Harlem became blacks living area in the early 1900s, and by 1920 became the center of African-American Culture. But racial prejudice is still controlled by the white population, were particularly severe bloody race riots of 1919, known as “Red Summer” (Gifford, 2002).

The Harlem Renaissance was a consequence of the changes in the lives of African-American society that have occurred since the time of the abolition of slavery, and up to the mass migration of blacks to the North, their participation in the First World War, industrialization, and indeed of all the social and cultural changes that occurred in the US in the early 20 century. In turn, the factors contributing to a decline of activity of the Harlem Renaissance, came the Great Depression and the difficult economic situation in the country.

The essence of the Harlem Renaissance was that through art, activities of writers, artists, musicians get rid of racial prejudice and stereotypes, to achieve social and political equality, to prove the white population that blacks are the same people standing on the same stage of development with a white, able to work, creativity and education.

Even in 1917, H. Harrison organized the newspaper “The Voice”, one of the main ideological centers of the Harlem Renaissance. The starting points of the Harlem Renaissance African American authors considered works of Claude McKay, James Weldon Johnson and others, telling about the life of the black population in America (Jones, 2002).

Quite difficult to give any clear description of the art of the Harlem Renaissance, it consisted of a variety of styles, from traditional to more modern (in the music of these directions is the jazz, blues, etc., in the literature - modernism, etc...) but many of them can be traced theme of life and the fate of the African-American people. Often African-American writers and artists have resorted to the explanation of the African-American folklore.

Harlem Renaissance movement was supported not only by influential circles in the black community, but also some members of the white Americans, such as Carl Van Vechten, Charlotte Osgood Mason. Many African-American musicians have become members of musical groups and collectives based white Americans. Also different was and the audience, which was meant for African-American art: how middle-class African-American population, and representatives of the white population. Poetry and prose of African-American writers have been published in magazines such as “Crisis”, “Possibility”, owned by blacks publishers. It is also actively working African-American authors published in journals and publishing houses owned by white Americans. Music of the Harlem Renaissance was also addressed as the white and black population (Nash, 2012; Tenorio, 2007).

Namely in the African-American culture in the early 20th century the so-called classical or urban blues formed. For melodic blues characterized by question-answer structure and the use of blues fret. In the lyrical texts of plurality of blues the theme of the social and racial oppression is reflected. Among the female performers of blues stand out owners of powerful, low voice, bright expressiveness, rich plastics. “Empress of the Blues” Bessie Smith was called. Bessie Smith made his first record February 17, 1923. The unprecedented sales records (especially Harlem) soon made her a star of the first magnitude, and she began to work regularly with his own show (as it did and “Ma” Rainey) in New York, Chicago, Boston, and Philadelphia, as well as in big cities South. Note that during its widespread recognition between 1923 and 1930 she performed almost exclusively for blacks (Baldellou, 2007).

At the root of the performing art of jazz great Louis Armstrong he was back in the 20s created the jazz in its current form. An example of the impact of European music to jazz, especially Italian opera L. Armstrong, can be heard in Armstrong’ improvisations. Quotes from different operas are presented in the most dramatic gusts solo, flowery decorations, bravura gestures and his whole theatrical view - soloist at the forefront of the scene. Example L. Armstrong did these traits by conventional and customary for jazz (Taylor, 2004).

African music arrived in America with black slaves. In fact, they did not have anything but music and dancing. In the homeland of the African music it is an essential part of various rituals. Rhythm was of paramount importance here, being the basis of a collective dance, collective prayer, in other words, a collective rite. At certain times of the American slaves were allowed to organize festivals of African music and dance festivals. The most famous festivals held in New Orleans. Over time, African musical traditions began to experience the impact of European music (Protestant chorale, military marches, dance music, opera arias) and the beginning of the 19th century American negros have created a new type of music that is a fusion of African and European musical cultures. This music includes many varieties: work songs, spirituals, field-edge, straight edge, and others. At the same time, based on Negro folklore created two new genres: blues and ragtime, which played a decisive role in the emergence of jazz.

The characteristic features of African folk music are polyrhythm, rhythmic polyphony and cross-rhythms. The melody and harmony here are almost in its infancy. This determines the fact that African music is more free, it has more room for improvisation. So, along with the black slaves brought Europeans to the Americas that became the basis of rhythmic jazz music. And Europe has brought to jazz melody and harmony, minor and major standards Solo melodic beginning.

Jazz was not only music, jazz was a way of life, which is liked by many. A stranger formalities, uncompromising, passionate and doubtless urbanistic Jazz to appeal to many young girls and boys, who hoped thereby to disconnect from the monotony of routine rural America (Lai, 2006).

Jazz 20-30-ies of the defining features of the modern elite and mass culture: entertainment (show programs on Broadway), cinema (the first sound film in 1927, "The Jazz Singer", "King of Jazz" and others.), Dance (the Charleston, Lindy hop), fashion, design, painting (Stuart Davis, Man Ray, Arthur Dove, Archibald Moutli et al.), literature (Langston Hughes, Wallace Thurman, Carl van Vechten "Black heaven" Scott Fitzgerald, etc.), classical music (symphojazz occurrence, such as Gershwin), dance (jazz, ballet), picture (Carl van Vechten) (Gifford, 2002).

For the uninitiated, it seemed exotic new music - hymns and spiritual-sprichuelz and blues as an organic musical form that transmits the attitude of American ghetto residents, and painting primitives, preserved almost lost professional artists perception of the world as a miracle. But the poets of the time were able to turn the night clubs and literary cafes Harlem in places of worship where all the artistic elite gathered in New York. The most famous among them was Langston Hughes (1902-1967), which has had a huge impact on both the blacks and the whites of writers (Taylor, 2004).

In the 30-40-ies there is improvement of the three styles of jazz - Stride, swing and bebop. A special role was played by vocalists. The most important component of the urban culture of 30-40-ies: municipal dance floors, street processions and speeches, a chain of restaurants and cafes, jazz clubs closed, as well as the legendary Cotton Club, which attracted audiences of all races, classes and lifestyles (Aragon, 2013) .

The main role in the popularization of swing orchestras played the radio. In the mid 30s the radio became a fixture of any American home. Evaluating the success of swing music the audience, filmmakers begin to make films, entirely built on orchestral numbers of white musicians. 30s also suggest creative tandem jazz and animation (Disney).

Bright shaped jazz world was reflected in many literary works of the early decades of the 20th century. Some of them appeared attempts to use the specificity of musical means of expression of jazz. Thus, the "Harlem" motifs sounded in poetry V. Lindsey relying on the structure and imagery blues. Often in his poems Lindsey introduces special musical remarks about their performance, "in the spirit of Dixie", in style "Alexander Ragtime Band". Various paintings of Harlem life were reflected in poetry of McKay ("The Harlem Dancer", "Banjo," "House in Harlem"). Multifaceted blues motifs sounded in poetry of Hughes ("Melancholy Blues", "Fantasia on Themes blues", "Blues in the evening air", "The cheapest Blues”, "Blues at dawn", and others). Under the influence of the academic tradition of music in the jazz brighter line denotes expansion of artistic tasks, opens prospects for finding new and original creative solutions (Nash, 2012).

Harlem Renaissance - the most important period in the history of African-American culture in general and literature in particular. During these years writers-blacks developed aesthetic and ideological and thematic basis for the development of its literature, formulated the goals and challenges facing by black authors. For example, the short story Langston Hughes distinguished thematic variety. The writer not only of the time of developing the problem, but also tries to make sense of their mission, bringing the number of issues raised by the Harlem Renaissance, received his original interpretation. At the same time agitated his problems were common not only for the revival of the Negro writers, but also to a large extent for the US and world literature in general (Taylor, 2004).

Harlem Renaissance era sparked racial cooperation, at least in terms of cultural acceptance and artistic exchange. Important figures such as Marcus Garvey also inspired a new sense of national identity among African Americans, who were transferred to the Civil Rights Movement of the 1960s.

Harlem Renaissance opened up many new opportunities for African-American writers, artists, musicians, and in general for all the African-American population. Previously, the work of African-American writers almost never published, in this time of literary works received a mass distribution. Many of the African-American writers have become known, for example, Jean Toomer, Richard Wright, James Weldon Johnson, Alain Locke, and the previously mentioned Langston Hughes, Claude McKay, Zora Neale Hurston. Artists Johnson and Palmer Hayden created unique works that reflect African-American subjects.

Harlem Renaissance changed not only cultural, but also social and political situation of African-Americans. Mass migration to the north changed the image of African Americans from the rural, illiterate "peasants" in the urban, educated, middle-class. And it means that African Americans entered the broader American first, and later in the global cultural and intellectual elite.

Harlem Renaissance representatives believed in democratic reforms, in art and literature as a means of change and impacts on the white population, believe in themselves and their own bright future. The Harlem Renaissance was interrupted suddenly, which was due to the Great Depression, and the blacks were simply unprepared for such a drastic social and economic changes, focusing on just their culture and spiritual development.

During the Harlem Renaissance, African-American culture won wide public recognition and reached its peak. Harlem Renaissance time - this was the time of not only cultural, but also political involvement of African Americans in the country's life. Among political organizations, operating at the time, are the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, United Negro Improvement Association (Ramsden, 1986).

Harlem Renaissance can safely be called a turning point in the history of the African-American community. This is a time of cultural expression, racial pride of black people. Despite the fact that in the late 20-ies of the Harlem Renaissance era is over, its achievements continued to have an influence on the subsequent cultural and political development of African Americans.

Works Cited

Aragon, Racheal. Re-sounding Harlem Renaissance narratives: the repetition and representation of identity through sound in Nella Larsen's Passing and Toni Morrison's Jazz. Thesis, 2013. 

Baldellou, Marta Miquel. THE BELOVED PURPLE OF THEIR EYES: INHERITING BESSIE SMITH’S POLITICS OF SEXUALITY. Journal of English and American studies, 2007, 36, pp. 67-88. Print.

Gifford, Nina. The Harlem Renaissance. National Center for History in the Schools University of California, Los Angeles, 2002.

Hill, Laban Carrick. Harlem Stomp!: A Cultural History Of The Harlem Renaissance. Little, Brown Books for Young Readers; Reprint edition, 2009. Print. 

Jones, Sharon L. Rereading the Harlem Renaissance: Race, Class, and Gender in the Fiction of Jessie Fauset, Zora Neale Hurston, and Dorothy West. Praeger, 2002. Print. 

Lai, Wei-ching. Re-Membering the Song of My Self— African-American Self-Formation in Toni Morrison’s Jazz. EurAmerica, 2006, Vol. 36, No. 4, pp. 591-612. Print.

Nash, William. Harlem Renaissance, 2012.

Ramsden, Kevin (1986). The “New Negro”: A Study of the Changing Social, Economic and Political Status of the African-American in the Early 20th Century. American Journal of Industrial Medicine, 9(1), pp. 43-59.

Taylor, Kristine. Ain’t You Heard? The Jazz Poetry of Langston Hughes. Thesis, 2004. 

Tenorio, Samantha C. Women-Loving Women: Queering Black Urban Space during the Harlem Renaissance. The UCI Undergraduate Research Journal, 2007. 


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