The Negro Renaissance

  • The Negro Renaissance

  • An Excerpt from “THE BLACK EXPERIENCE IN AMERICA” Published electronically by its author, Norman Coombs, and Project Gutenberg. (C 1993) by Norman Coombs.

  • Narrator

    In 1922, James Welden Johnson edited a volume of American Negro poetry, and in the same year Claude McKay, who had come to Harlem from Jamaica, published his first significant volume of poetry, “Harlem Shadows".

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  • These twin events, however, were only the beginning of a vast outpouring of cultural activity, and Harlem became, as Johnson called it, the “culture capital” for this movement.

  • Artists poured into Harlem from across the country.

  • Night clubs rocked with music and dance.

  • Narrator

    Publishers were besieged by poets and novelists, and, surprising to the young writers, publishers were eager to see Negro authors.

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  • Besides the new creative urge, thousands of Negroes and whites were hungry to consume the fruits of this new renaissance.

  • This artistic renaissance did not come out of a vacuum.

  • Narrator

    Negroes had been publishing poetry for over a century and a half, since the time of Phillis Wheatley and Jupiter Hammon.

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  • Paul Laurence Dunbar was the first Negro poet to gain nationwide recognition, at the beginning of the twentieth century.

  • While, on one hand, he captured and depicted the spirit of the Negro folk, on the other hand, he did it in such a way as to perpetuate black stereotypes and white prejudices.

  • Actually, this aided his popularity, and he later came to regret it.

  • Negroes had also been dancing and creating music in America for over three hundred years.

  • Vaudeville and Minstrelsy were their first commercial products.

  • Narrator

    Ironically, the first professional entertainers to perform in minstrel shows were whites who were imitating plantation slave productions.

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  • In the beginning, whites performed in blackface, and, only later, did Negroes themselves perform commercially.

  • The spirituals were a religious manifestation of the Afro-American heritage.

  • They appear to have been on the verge of disappearing when the “Fisk University Singers", late in the nineteenth century, took steps to preserve them.

  • Narrator

    A choral group from Fisk was touring the country in order to raise money for the school.

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