Harlem Renaissance poets

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The Harlem Renaissance refers to a period in the history of United States when a group of authors, essayists, and poets, majorly of African descent to express themselves to the world through writing and poetry. The paper explains how key social, cultural, and artistic contributions contributed to historical changes and the importance of situating a society’s cultural and artistic expressions within a historical context. In addition, it examines the influences of intellectual, religious, political, and socio-economic forces on social, cultural and artistic expressions. Finally, it identifies major historical developments in world cultures from Harlem Renaissance to the contemporary times.

Harlem Renaissance was a period in which the Negro contributed to more social recognition and relevance in the history of the American population. The period witnessed a wave of literary works aimed at portraying the Negro as a capable individual in society if the only opportunity was accorded to them. As such, the great works of literary art set a significant contrast against the highly prejudiced background, which described the American society at the time. In the highly racially-prejudiced society, the Harlem, Renaissance Poets managed to show the intellectual “worth” of the Negro hence earned social recognition (Varlack & Christopher, 2015). Additionally, the Harlem Renaissance poets were instrumental in guiding both social and cultural trajectories in the area of “human worth” and judgment. Through such literary expositions, the poets managed to decipher the differences, which the Negro and Immigrants from Caribbean Islands, collectively referred to as West Indians held regarding the value of humans in society. From such writings, it could be noted that West Indians understood color as of no consequence in judging an individual’s worthwhile the Negroes of African descent generally accepted color as a determinant of an individual’s value in society. The Harlem poets through their work managed to transform the Negroes thought to disregard color but character and worth of contribution as being important to determine a person’ value.

Culturally, the Harlem Renaissance poets helped to identify and enlighten American society of the ingrained differences between the family setups and structures of West Indians and American-born Negro families. According to Varlack (2015), such artistic works helped to understand the underlying reasons for West Indians’ intact families, class-consciousness economic struggle with, and the “disjointed” families of American-born Negro families as a result of slavery. He concludes that it was from such artistic works that the largely matriarchal American Negro families and patriarchal West Indians’ families could be understood. Religion was another aspect of culture that Harlem Renaissance poets helped in the society to understand and the distinction between different worship groups. The writing contributed immensely to the understanding of the underlying reasons why the Negro population was largely Baptist or Methodist while the West Indian population was predominantly Episcopalian and Roman Catholics and the modes of prayer, which characterize the two populations (Varlack and Christopher. 2015). Finally, the artistic writings helped in understanding the reasons, which underlay frequent ridicule concerning tropical dressing mode and frictions between American Negro population and the West Indians.

Situating a society’s cultural and artistic expressions within a historical context is of immense importance because of the following reason. Historical contexts are important to make consumers of both cultural and artistic expressions identify with their past. In situations where such expressions are placed in historical contexts of societies, it becomes much easier for the communities to relate to the expressions consequently enhancing reception and internalization. Also, placing both cultural and artistic expressions in historical contexts is important because it helps to inform the future of the communities regarding cultural practices which need to be cherished those that require discarding and blending. Indeed, it was evident from the art pieces which Harlem Renaissance poets did that there are specific perspectives of life that America Negro families blended with those of West Indians such as considerations for an individual’s value and worth in society (Baldwin & Makalani, 2013). History remains important in informing the future.

Intellectual, religious, political, and socio-economic forces influence social, cultural, and artistic expressions in different ways. Through the efforts of the intellectual poets, the increasing instance of class-consciousness served as an important boost to the subject of the Negro population. Indeed, after a relatively short duration after the literary wave of Harlem Renaissance, the Negro increasingly become a literary subject which drew a lot of attention in the American society (Varlack and Christopher. 2015). The Negro earned a considerable degree of relevance and social recognition in the society. Also, the West Indian immigrant population which had grown cohesive with the American-born Negro populations over time provided a pivotal role of introducing the immigrant populations into elective politics albeit in smaller proportion at the beginning.

The pioneer immigrant politicians paved way for more political engagement of the Negros of Harlem in days that would follow. Both religious interactions and economic struggle coupled with historical and cultural artistic expressions between the different immigrant groups helped in fostering a cohesive and economically active society in Harlem. The resulting society helped in the creation of Harlem as the Capital of the “Black World” (Baldwin & Makalani, 2013). Interactions of the forces of intellect, religion, socio-economic and politics influenced the social, cultural and artistic expressions in a multiplicity of ways as mass movement into Harlem. Further, the formation of movements aimed to advance for the rights of colored people, constant push to ameliorate the condition of Negroes and sensitization of the entire World by the intellectuals such as Macus Garvey and DuBois and about Negro’s suffering.

Harlem has been widely known as the zero ground for the explosion of culture, politics, and arts of the Black Americans. While the observation remains an important point to make it is worth mentioning that there have been great historical developments in the world cultures from the Harlem Renaissance to the contemporary times. Indeed, DuBois once espoused that the uniquely expressive “American” traditions and cultures trace their origins to the African-Americans of Harlem (Baldwin and Makalani, 2013). One such culture that has since become worldwide sensations is the African-American music culture of the jazz and blues music. The cultures began with the introduction of “race records” industry and the musicians involved included Bessie Smith, Alberta Hunter, and Ma Rainey.

The songs majorly themed the aspirations and philosophical perspectives of the black working class (Varlack, 2015). From blues, the jazz music arose and spread to different parts of Northern States. Another music culture, which traces its roots to the early Renaissance in Harlem, is the use of Phonograph which was a record player producing sound by means of vibrating needle on a rotating disc. The culture has since evolved to tape records compact discs and the flash discs and microchips used in contemporary times. Also, the gospel music has similar trends as the jazz music, having its roots from the cultures of Harlem as demonstrated by the emotionality and lack of quite in the Negro church services.

In conclusion, two factors, which triggered the Harlem Renaissance, are the increased contact and interaction between the American Negro population with other black people from different parts of the earth and the large-scale movement of the Negroes from Southern States o the States in the North such as Harlem. Harlem intellectuals developed a sense of self-respect and decided to use art for self-expression. Finally, it is evident that Harlem Renaissance poets played a significant role to the introduction of different world cultures, which have evolved in different ways to contemporary times.

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  1. Baldwin, D. L., & Makalani, M. (2013). Escape from New York: The New Negro Renaissance beyond Harlem. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press.
  2. Varlack, C. A. (2015). Harlem Renaissance. Ipswich (Mass.: Salem Press.
  3. Varlack, & Christopher. (2015). Critical Insights Harlem Renaissance. Salem Pr Inc.
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