.. re of the Harlem writers, and black nationalism swept the Harlem culture. Magazines such as Opportunity and The Crisis endorsed black political forums and addressed voting issues in the African American community. Religion was also a theme in writings of the time, due to the fact that many writers came from devout religious backgrounds. Countee Cullen’s work, as in “Yet I Do Marvel,” often questions whether or not God is “good, well-meaning, kind” (Cullen 267).
James Weldon Johnson also treats religious themes in God’s Trombones, where he explores the preaching of southern black preachers. Lastly, feminism found its way into the writings of the Harlem Renaissance, as female writers such as Zora Neale Hurston, female editors such as Jessie Fauset, and female patrons such as Charlotte Mason had involvement in every level of the Harlem literature. These influential women “not only made a major contribution to the literature of the Harlem Renaissance but also introduced .. themes that explored the role of women in black America” (Wintz 207). Thus, a great variety of issues were brought to attention of the broader American culture as a direct result from the Harlem Renaissance.
Beyond new ideas, the Harlem Renaissance writers contributed new literary techniques and methods to American literature. In their poetry, prose, novels, and other writings, the Harlem authors incorporated many forms unique to the black community. Folklore was one of these methods. Zora Neale Hurston, for example, based almost all of her writings on folk stories. Along with folklore, Zora Neale Hurston used southern comedy, which was rare among the black intellectuals of Harlem.
James Weldon Johnson also tapped into southern black tradition, using poetry “to capture the imagery and cadences of old-time black preachers” (Frazier 272). Many black poets used graphic pictures and description in their work. Langston Hughes shows this in his poem “Dream Variation,” as he describes his dream with “Dance! Whirl! Whirl!” (Hughes 272). Variety in form and subject was one of the strong points of Harlem literature, and the only constant in all the literature was creativity. Perhaps the greatest legacy from the writers of the Harlem Renaissance is the lasting literature itself.
The Harlem Renaissance created literary works that defined a whole culture and time period. Literature of the period invoked feeling, thought, and creativity. Authors such as Claude McKay, Countee Cullen, Jessie Fauset, Zora Neale Hurston, Arna Bontemps, Langston Hughes, Alain Locke, W.E.B. Du Bois, and James Weldon Johnson are still discussed in literary circles, sold at bookstores, and enjoyed by readers everywhere. Beyond literature, the works of the Harlem Renaissance also had many cultural implications. Most of the cultural ramifications took place within the African American community.
One immediate way the Harlem Renaissance affected black culture was by encouraging blacks in other art forms. Blacks soon became very popular in the field of visual arts. Aaron Douglas and William H. Johnson were two of the many black painters to benefit from the Harlem Renaissance. Black music also began to flourish, and jazz became a sensation under black talents such as Duke Ellington, Bill “Bojangles” Robinson, and Ma Rainey. James Van Der Zee represented blacks in the photography profession.
As a result of this increasing exposure to black culture and art, the distance between black and white culture began to diminish. Even after the Harlem Renaissance was over, the movement inspired the emergence of black writers in America. Many of the themes and literary styles of Harlem Renaissance writers have been continued in today’s African American literature. Through the works of the Renaissance, “the foundation was laid for Ralph Ellison, James Baldwin, Gwendolyn Brooks, Alice Walker, Toni Morrison, Maya Angelou, Terry McMillan, Rita Dove, and thousands of other African American writers, painters, composers, and singers” (Harlem Renaissance 2). Prior to the Harlem Renaissance, black artistic involvement was scarce, but as a result of it many black writers continue to enjoy success in all fields of literature and art.
The Harlem Renaissance also gave the entire African American culture a new identity, which led them out of the degradation of slavery. Alain Locke described the shift in black self-evaluation in his 1925 work, The New Negro, as he said, “The day of ‘aunties,’ ‘uncles’ and ‘mammies’ is equally gone. Uncle Tom and Sambo have passed on .. . In the very process of being transplanted, the Negro is becoming transformed” (Locke 336).
Locke and other writers of the movement inspired pride in the black heritage and pushed the concept that African American culture has the same potential for genius as any other culture. Du Bois addresses this point in one of his editorials, calling for the liberation of the intellect and creativity of African Americans. He writes: “Off with these thought-chains and inchoate soul-shrinkings, and let us train ourselves to see beauty in black” (Du Bois 278). Indeed a “New Negro” was created. The new image of black culture continued to extend, reaching not only African Americans, but also blacks throughout the world. “African and Caribbean blacks were affected to a surprising degree” (Wintz 228). Based on the works of Hughes, Toomer, McKay, Johnson, and Cullen, worldwide poets and thinkers from French speaking countries in Africa tried to start a similar Renaissance in Paris.
Leopold Senghor, and Aime Cesaire are simply a few of Renaissance leaders for French speaking blacks. South Africa also mined great wealth from the writings of the Harlem Renaissance, and South African writer Peter Abrahams even related the literature from Harlem to his own situation in his African homeland (Wintz 228-229). The Harlem Renaissance was also a significant contributing factor to the civil rights movement in America. The civil rights movement not only affected blacks, but carried implications for all minorities and for all people in American society, regardless of race. The ideals of black nationalism and equality shown in the Harlem Renaissance were groundbreaking. The intellectual synergy of a united African American community set a precedent for the civil rights movement decades later. In fact, Wintz maintains that “the only similar experience occurred during the civil rights movement ..
in which blacks again united for a magic moment in history” (Wintz 231). The Harlem Renaissance moved African Americans one step closer to equality and proved that “black literature could be an important weapon in the struggle for civil rights” (Wintz 191). The word “renaissance” means “rebirth.” It means that something new came into existence; life was produced. By tracing the effects of the Harlem writers, it becomes apparent that the movement truly was a renaissance. The Harlem Renaissance was not merely a short-lived bright spot in the intellectual and artistic history of African Americans.
It was a movement that left a living legacy. It changed forever the image of the black community in America, both in terms of the self-perception of black culture and in terms of the impact of black culture on American society. The Harlem Renaissance truly was a significant bridge, leading black culture in America from slavery to its current place of influence in American society. English Essays.