By Jamaica Thompson
As we continue to explore African-American literature, we move from the slave narratives and political writings of Early America, and onto the Harlem Renaissance. This period in our history began in the predominantly African American neighborhood of Harlem, New York in the 1920s and 1930s. Spearheaded by activists W.E.B. DuBois and Marcus Garvey, the movement focused on creating and presenting a cultural identity in which all African Americans could take pride, and spreading the belief that everyone has equal value and worth.
For much of history to his point, African American artistic expression had meant taking art forms popularized by white artists and using them as models for their own literary, musical, and artistic endeavors.
However, with the Harlem Renaissance came a new focus on creating original and innovative works of art in many different forms. Jazz and poetry provided outlets for this upwelling of spontaneous creativity, while the blues and a revival of African folk stories celebrated African heritage and culture.
In each period of history, we see elements of the times before and glimmers of what is to come. Through his novels, essays, poetry, and plays, Langston Hughes brought the every-day struggles of African Americans to light, while simultaneously relating the realities of the present to the atrocities of the past. Gwendolyn Brooks’ poetry and writings highlighted the struggles in the lives of African Americans, but there is a whisper of the fight for equality that eventually turns to a roar in her later works. These literary masters are just two of the many artists who contributed to spreading the messages and ideals of the Harlem Renaissance. These artists set the stage for the contemporary works we see as products of the Civil Rights era and beyond.
Our African American Literature unit is now available and, in honor of Black History Month, this unit will be offered for FREE through the month of February. No fee, no credit card number, and no email address are required. Just click the link and start learning! This unit is designed to be experienced by parents and children together. It provides an engaging and enlightening look at a broad spectrum of literature produced by African American writers from three eras of our history.