In the early 1900's, there was a change in African American culture that influenced many events that succeeded it. This change made other cultures view African American society in a different way. Thousands of African Americans migrated to a suburb of New York called Harlem. This sparked the revival of African American literature, art and music, now called the Harlem Renaissance. Views depicted in works by Langston Hughes, Claude McKay, Alan Locke, and other black authors gave African Americans a sense of social consciousness. African Americans became noticed for this nationwide.
Louis Armstrong, a very well known jazz musician of this time was a huge influence on music and the entire renaissance. Though Armstrong had many accomplishments in the music industry, his beginnings weren't so musical. As a kid Louis was sent to reform school, where he learned to play the cornet. After he was released from reform school he hung out at clubs and listened to his favorite bands for hours. A man from one of his favorite bands, Joe "King" Oliver taught and further instructed Louis on the cornet. Louis Armstrong wasn't afraid to be different and stand out. Armstrong once said, "There is two kinds of music the good and bad. I play the good kind," (Louis Armstrong Quotes.) This must have been true because people loved him for his unique sound. It wasn't just his unique sound that got him so far, it was also his courage and determination that made him such an influential African American during and after the Harlem Renaissance.
Also, another influential person of this time was Langston Hughes. Hughes became known for his beautiful poems and stories during the Harlem Renaissance. Hughes began writing in high school. He always had an interest in writing and excelled in it as well. Hughes had a rough childhood and didn't really have a relationship with either of his parents. Hughes was also poor. These negative factors in his life made him insecure and unsure about himself. But those insecurities only gave him motivation to write. Hughes wrote well known poems such as "I, Too, Sing America", and "The Negro Speaks of Rivers". His poems were filled with real emotions that people could relate to. Hughes was a phenomenal writer, which explains why he was such an influential person during the Harlem Renaissance.
Lastly, another important influential person in the Harlem Renaissance was Claude McKay. Claude McKay was born in Jamaica where he was raised by his brother. His brother was the person who educated him. He owned a library filled with English novels, poetry and scientific texts. Being exposed to this sort of thing was apparently good for McKay. His brother's teachings inspired him to write stories of his own. In 1912 McKay moved to America in order to receive a higher education. While in America McKay made many accomplishments. He wrote a couple of sonnets, while in America. He then later traveled to Russia, then France. Later McKay returned to America, Harlem, New York to be exact. While in Harlem he began to study different teachings of preachers and political leaders. Claude McKay was well traveled, well educated and wrote wonderful stories. These are just some of the various reasons why he was such an important part of the Harlem Renaissance.
There were many people who influenced the Harlem Renaissance. But, the Harlem Renaissance was about more than just the people. It was about the entire African American culture as a whole, being reborn and reintroduced to America. Other things such as food characterized the Harlem Renaissance. The Harlem Renaissance is the reason we have "soul food". Blacks introduced new foods and recipes to the rest of America. Blacks were always given the parts of animals that were not desired by others and they made do with them. African Americans introduced chitterlings or "chittlins" to the rest of America. They also took the sweet potato and made it into a treat, sweet potato pie. African Americans brought many different recipes that people still use today. As Sarah Ban Breathnanh said "Soul food is our personal passport to the past," (Soul Food Quotes)
Another thing African Americans brought with the Harlem Renaissance was a new style of dancing. They had clubs with jazz music, where people danced closely and freely. It was different among many other things blacks did, but it slowly became popular and part of American society.
The Harlem Renaissance was an uplifting, and inspiring time for African Americans in the early 1900's. It earned them attention and respect from the rest of America. There was still racism and discrimination after the Harlem Renaissance. Langston Hughes once said "I swear to the Lord I still can't see why democracy means everybody but me," (Langston Hughes Quotes) Although there was still discrimination against blacks in America, the Harlem Renaissance was a sort of coming out party to let America know Blacks were here and here to stay. The Harlem Renaissance gave Blacks freedom and courage to be themselves in their new home. Many authors, musicians and artists influenced this rebirth of Black culture but it was also the common citizens of Harlem that really made the difference. The Harlem Renaissance made African Americans fell more socially accepted and free.
Bloom, Harold.The Harlem Renaissance.Philedelphia:Chelsea House Publishers, 2004.
Chambers, Veronica.The Harlem Renaissance.Philedelphia:Chelsea House Publishers, 1998.
"Langston Hughes Biography."Biography.com.