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The history of African-Americans has been marked with both difficult as well as exhilarating moments in the past, as well as crucial figures that helped shape their general philosophy. Wee have leaders like Martin Luther King (civil rights movement), Huey Newton (Black Panther Party), Nat Turner (the slave revolt) (Nash). However, the Harlem Renaissance period marked the beginning of a very vital part of the history of art as well as culture for the black in the United States. Through it, new meaning was instituted regarding poetry and art; it was rather an evolution of the culture of the black (Hubpages.com, n d). Well, the Harlem Renaissance was a social and culture thought that was based on the community of the African-American in the US.
Notwithstanding, this new phenomenon, which was initially referred to as the Negro Movement, sought to uplift new cultural identity for the blacks through its literal as well as intellectual thoughts. According to Alain Locke, the Harlem Renaissance was rather “a spiritual coming of age in which the black community was able to seize upon its first chances for group expression and self determination (Locke 1925). Harlem Renaissance did not only influence the intellectual avenue of the African-Americans, but also equipped them with economic support, especially owing to the fact that there were rampart cases of racism, and scarce job opportunities. In addition, it was rather a way in which the African-Americans could both derive their well being, while at the same time expressing their new cultural heritage in through art (Rowen and Brunner 2007). Therefore, through this Negro movement, the Africans in Harlem were now reaffirming themselves by exceeding the realm of se-expression as well as reflection. In addition, as the new revolt developed, there developed too, a series of themes, portrayed in the literal and intellectual work of the African-Americans. This article could not concentrate on all the themes but rather, the one theme that features a lot of aspect common to the other themes, that is, ‘Africa a source of Pride’. Moreover, as the paper develops the researcher is inclined to point out the special aspects that make up this notion of pride so important to both the history of Americans as well as to the history of the world in general
The African Pride
The Harlem Renaissance, came as a new dawn for the African Americans, who for the first time in history, after slavery issues, were able to reassert themselves and bring out the talents in them through the expressions of their identity and pride. The movement under consideration set foot in history years after the end of slavery (McKee). Furthermore, through this movement, they were able to express themselves through music, art, as well as literature. Most importantly, they were able to explicate on what it meant to be a black person in America. Besides, the basic cultural aspects that were initially silenced in the United States could be brought to service through the Harlem Renaissance.
Before, this movement occurred, the main event that could be cited in history regarding the African Americans, was slavery and racial propagandas. In addition, it is as a result of this that some regions of the United States were still not habitable, especially the south, which was quite dangerous for the African Americans to live. Actually, there had been numerous freedom issues for the African Americans, where for, the white powerfully affirmed their superiority in society. Similarly, the north was actually influenced by some sense of segregation and poor economic conditions. Therefore, Harlem became the best place to stage this movement.
The independence declaration led to a massive process of migration of the black Americans from the southern states to the north between 1929 and 1925. And as Jeffrey B Ferguson indicated, the Great Migration during the 20th century saw over 750,000 African Americans flee the south in which they were depressed economically, and move to the north where jobs were available (Ferguson 2007). In fact, through this process of migration, and through the fact that independence was now overtly expressed, there was some strong feeling of advancement and hope a flourishing future in the northern states as well (Ferguson 2005). In addition, this region gave new impetus to the lives of the African Americas, especially now that they could find jobs in manufacturing plants and factories. As a result, the attachment to the south by a great number of African Americas became lose because they then had the opportunity to inhabit an urban area, which provided free avenue for celebration and identify affirmation.
The Harlem Renaissance, not only paved way for African Americans to work and earn some income to support their livelihood, it also attacked the ‘white supremacy’ thought, by enabling African Americans celebrate their own cultural identity in literary and intellectual works. In addition, they were no longer seeking to integrate themselves in the white American way of life, but instead, to declare publicly their unique culture as part of the great American nation. In other words, they acknowledge that they had been separated from the rest of the nation, for a long time, and now it was their turn to separate themselves. Of an amazing feeling to note, is the fact that instead of downplaying the inherent difference between the African American and the white Americans, they resorted to the celebration of their identity.
Therefore, after having gone through an overview of what came to be referred to as the Harlem Renaissance, as well as its immediate consequence, one needs to now have a look at what led Sterling Brown, to acknowledge that Africa was a source of pride in America (Ferguson 2007). This pride is highly explicated in James Weldon Johnson’s assertion regarding Harlem, in which he considered Africans to be visionaries, critique, adventurous, ambitious, enterprising, and talented, with numerous talents and creativity.
The concept of pride designates an appreciation of oneself from among the many individuals or groups. In Harlem Renaissance, the African Americans were able to acknowledge their identity, and bring out their uniqueness and talent to the service. They were further able to portray that Africans were not simply sad people but rather people whose happiness emanated towards the entertainment industry, the arts, music, and other social upbringing industries. Moreover, contrary to the African American suppression in the south and the slavery era, the new dawn indicated that Africans were no longer nursing feelings of segregation and racial discrimination. However, they were delighting in the differences that exist in terms of color and culture in order to embrace a new society that now recognized the essence of being human in one of the greatest states of the world.
The transformation of the African Americans to urban, sophisticated, and cosmopolitan individuals was in itself a source of pride. In addition, most importantly, in the due course of this transformation, all the artists took part. In addition, the participation of all the creative minds of the Harlem Renaissance ensured a sense of purpose and unity in uplifting their sense of pride. Moreover, pride was reflected in African Americans’ paintings, writings, and music, which was further instituted as a new culture (African-American culture). Through these writings, the African Americans were able to express their talents, thoughts, and creativity, in view of uplifting and assembling a new culture.
Langston Hughes in The Negro Artist and the Racial Mountain brought out a very distinctive expression of what it means to be pride on the part of the African-Americans. In Hughes’ assertion, African-Americans were now inclined towards expressing their racial individuality towards the American world. Hence, the racial uniqueness of the African-Americans acknowledges the dark-skinned color that distinguishes them from the whites. Additionally, in cognizant of this darkness in complexion, the younger African Americans went ahead to acknowledging that they are proud of that uniqueness because it makes them who they are, and with neither fear nor shame, the Negros were able to disregard any disregard for their dark color. This is because this color made them stand out with a beauty that could only be recognized by those who were positively interested in discovering the beauty (Ferguson 2007). On the other hand, whoever was not pleased with the African American identity did not matter to them whether he/she was pleased or not. What was rather important was the fact that this new culture was able to call for unity in embracing all situations, whether good or bad (Ferguson 2007).
The reason for African-Americans’ inclination for a sense of pride emanates from the historical sufferings of slavery and racial discrimination that they had undergone in the past, and that they were now ready to undermine it in America, while boosting their sense of uniqueness. Consequently, through pride, as W.E.B. Dubois makes it clear, African-Americans were now able to boost their sense of esteem; for it is only in this that, they could be able to resist segregation, and discrimination, which had been rampant in the past in the US.
Consequently, as a result of pride, problems of discrimination and segregation were given a new turn in the American society. In addition, because of this sense of pride, the Harlem movement was able to instigate the Civil Rights Movement, during the 20th century. The civil rights called for equality among all people regardless of race, color, or origin. Besides, it reasserted the inherent nature that all humans have to express themselves and share their opinions for nation building. Thus, the United States was no longer a white dominated nation, but rather a nation of people of diverse backgrounds, all united for a general course for nation building.
The drive for nation building, became the long run consequence of the Harlem Renaissance, since as the African-Americans continued to express their talent and put it to use, the economy was also growing. Further, as a result of pride, the various talents in each and every individual African that were suppressed as a result of racial discrimination, were now actualized in a manner that gladdened the hearts of the blacks, thus enabling them to offer their very best. Similarly, those who had the opportunity to work in factories and industries were able to re-assert their talents fully at work leading to more output in their respective areas of work.
Therefore, the Harlem Renaissance led to a dawn of a new era in which African Americans were now able to render their talents in writings, visual arts, and music, in the city of New York. As a result, many people were now interested in the black culture, which was more appealing to the white elite in who travelled to the New York City to experience the culture of the blacks (Nash153). Finally, a new phenomenon of cultural tourism was seen to emerge in the States, thus promoting the relationship between the black artists and the white artists such as Carl Van Vechten, who was engaged in these happenings as well (Nash153). A good example of this enhanced black-white relationship is the Cotton Club, a night club which was meant only for the whites, while the blacks entertained and served them (Nash153). However, this participation at times portrayed blacks as primitive people.
Nevertheless, the emergency of Harlem Renaissance, led to an evolution of an African-American way of life, which bubbled out of New York, and then poured through the American nation to other parts of the world. As a result, it gave rise to new writers, great thinkers, and powerful musicians, in the history of art, music, and philosophy. The Harlem Renaissance philosophy recognizes that the duality of being black and white in the American society was a source of intellectual strength that moved the Negros from their sentiments to their experiences of life (Hutchinson 1999). Consequently, as Locke continues to note the new culture could be responsible for “the establishment of contract between the more advanced and representative classes” composed of both the white and the black Americans (Locke 10). Moreover, it was this aspect of civilization, which could lead to cultural amalgamation, thus leading to the elimination of the inherent social evils (Harris74).
Finally, according to the Harlem Movement, pride is an inside job expressed; that is, pride, emanates from the individual cognition of the tremendous talent in him/her, and then spreads out to others in entertainment avenues. In addition, it is manifested in the music one sings, or the literary work done by an ardent writer, or an artistic presented that displays both the uniqueness and an uplifting attitude. Hence, as Schuyler notifies, color is just an accident that can vary from individual to individual, from very dark brown, and then to pink, and it does not simply imply that one is different from the rest, but rather looks different in color while in the inside, remains to be an American, just like the rest (Nash153).
Besides, the experience of pride among the African Americans gave history a positive turn since; people were now able to learn from the initially suppressed minorities at various avenues. In addition, this learning permeated the whole of US that every household was able to get a glimpse of what it means to believe in oneself. Moreover, as the vastness of this movement grew strong, a new revelation was being propagated in the United States region that called for unity in diversity. Hence, as more and more people came to witness and appreciate the African American culture, institutional racism was simultaneously paving way for unity and human rights appreciation. This therefore, gave impetus to every citizen to strive to bolster the united-ness of the United States of America.
Therefore, this research paper has explored at length the movement of Harlem Renaissance with special regard for the theme of African pride. Right from the beginning to the end, a series of issues have been tackled in relation to this theme. The initial part of this essay gave a recap on the historical development of the Harlem Renaissance. At the onset of this movement, many factors have been observed to contribute towards the accomplishment of what is now referred to as the African American culture; a culture so pervasive in the American society for it gave rise to a spirited African expression in various avenues about talent and race.
Now, one of the greatest achievements of the Harlem Renaissance was the fact that it was able to downplay meticulously the racial discrimination that was so prevalent in the United States for quite a long time. As the movement kept on gaining more supporters, a new line of understanding about the Africans was also becoming known; that Africans too, were very strong intellectuals capable of educating the masses and entertaining the elite. Furthermore, it came at a time after the World War I, when there were numerous jobs requiring more employees to work. This as a result brought together people from different races together to work together for nation building. Thus, the numerous literary works that were presented by the Negros restored the pride of African Americans. The term ‘Negro’, which was initially associated with inferiority and inadequacy was now given a new meaning that indicated content and not sentiment on the part of the African Americans. Consequently, it has been made clear that because of one’s pride, one is able to actualize one’s potentials in society, thus leading to economic development. It is therefore important that we appreciate the African pride and spirit as explicated in the Harlem revolution, and then we appreciate the ultimate outcome of the pride that the African-Americans recognized. This is because, through that, spirit there has been widespread fight for human rights, and the political arena has seen so many politicians rise from among this initially minority group.
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