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The Harlem Renaissance was a series of African-American thought and cultures in the African American society formed in Harlem, New York city. The period that the Renaissance occurred was between the years 1920 and 1940. According to Bolland, cultural mediums such as dance, music, literature, politics, poem and theatre were used to achieve the objectives of the African-American. Rather than using the previous direct political means in conveying their message (2009). African-American artists and writers used the cultural approach in achieving their civil rights and goals in the society. This renaissance was commonly referred to as the New Negro Movement where the contemporary cultural works of African-Americans were absorbed into the mainstream culture.
The Great Migration
The end of the American Civil War was marked the beginning of a new era characterized by an improved education system, employment opportunities and better service delivery for the black Americans. "The creation of this new class which became the new middle class in America resulted in the middle class people to expect the same treatment accorded to the whites"(Hutchinson, 1997). However, this fight for equality was dealt a huge blow when a court ruling set precedent stating that racial discrimination was constitutionally legal. This led to increased oppression and poor living conditions for the black minority in the American society.
The Harlem Renaissance
In the early 90s, the middle calls which mostly consisted of the African-American began pushing for social justice specifically a new political agenda that advocated for racial equality. The epicenter of this movement was New York where most of the human rights activists' groups were located. One of the individual who was most vocal in lobbying for racial equality was W.E.B. Du Bois. Du Bois I collaboration with other African-American human right activists and activists groups met in New York to discuss the problems amd challenges facing the black community. This led to the formation of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP).
During the same period, Jamaican born Marcus Garvey was in the frontline in promoting the Back to Africa movement. The main objective of this organization was to unite all the black people who had a common ancestry that is Africa. This movement succeeded in instilling a sense of pride and unity in the black Americans with regards to their ancestry and heritage. Some of the most notable activities during the Harlem Renaissance were the publishing of the a journal on Negro life and the organization of the Civic Club dinner which eventually became a great success is promoting black writers, poets and artists(Southern, Eileen. Music of Negro Americans a history).
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Influence of Harlem Renaissance on Civil Rights Movement
A New Black Identity
The Harlem Renaissance was a success in that it brought a culture of cohesiveness and unity in civil rights movements during the time. The success of the Harlem Renaissance is not only felt on the cultural context but also in the social aspect. Unlike the previous years, the Renaissance led to the civil rights movement conveying their message in amore unique and organized way. The practice of applying cultural mediums in availing their grievances was a more appealing method than the previously used political approach.
The Harlem Renaissance changed entirely the dynamics of African-American arts. Most post-Harlem Renaissance writers were successful as the Renaissance led to the public being more open to African-American literature than what was previously being experienced at the beginning of the century. This implied that Civil Rights Movement could successfully convey their message through writing and be able to target a large group as compared to the past. The literary works also encouraged Civil Rights Movements to be more vigorous in their campaign for social equality and justice in the American society.
The Harlem Renaissance set a foundation for the current Civil Rights Movements by setting precedent on issues regarding social injustices and racial segregation in the American society. This has helped modern activist to be more vocal when ti comes to issues dealing with racial discrimination. "Not only did the Renaissance influence racial ideologies but also led to the blossoming of literary works by African-Americans" (The Norton Anthology of African American Literature.1997, p. 931)
The success of the Harlem Renaissance has embodied a common belief in black pride which has motivated the Civil Rights Movements to fight for equity and social justice and in the common course in which they believe in. As is said, unity is strength; in the past, the fight for social justice and against racial discrimination was due to the absence of a common goal by most Civic Rights Movement. The Harlem Renaissance helped in shaping the new era techniques of lobbying for social justice in the American society such as through writing, music, theater, poetry and visual arts.
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The End of the Renaissance
The Harlem Renaissance came to an end during the beginning of the Great Depression. According to Wintz, this period was characterized by many lay-offs and housing foreclosure which eventually shut many African-American from the American dream which had seemed so close (Wintz, 2007). There was also the escalating conflict between the blacks and the white shop-owners that eventually split the two groups apart. However, the effects of the Harlem Renaissance still live in the U.S. culture in form of new musical expression and other contemporary works.
The influence of the Harlem Renaissance is not confined in the US only. There are various artistes, poets and writers who have received global recognition for their magnificent works and trace their roots to the Harlem Renaissance. This movement is what shaped today's politics where the African-American cultural heritage has been used to express the messages by the black minority in the American society/ This movement was therefore a key factor in shaping today's Civic Right Movements and Social activist Groups in modern world.
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