The Harlem Renaissance/ The New Negro Movement

There are many important events that happened during the Harlem Renaissance. As with the Renaissance in Europe centuries before it, there was a ‘rebirth’ of literature, art, and a way to view the world, from the African-American perspective.


Many advances were made in the black community, like education, politics, religion, music, and literature. Now more than ever before, blacks could get an education, no matter how impoverished the school was, they made the most out of it. Religion changed during this time, people went to church, worshiping fervently, through approaches that were cult/sect-like with bigger churches. Marcus Garvey was a prime example of revolutionizing the way the black community viewed themselves as a people. Music changed as well, the creation of the blues, and gospel (blues) became very popular in the black community. Leading jazz artists were Duke Ellington, Billie Holiday, and Louis Armstrong. It was even more popular in Europe, since prejudice still existed in America. Since most black people could read, they wrote plays, essays, and poetry, some about freedom and some about being left out because they were black. Authors in this time included Langston Hughes, Helene Johnson, and Zora Neale Hurston.
Billie Holiday (also known as Lady Day and Queen of Song).


Music can be used to reach many different types of people in the same way. No matter what language you speak, and what you're beliefs are, we can all relate to each other and understand through music. Many musicians during this time evolved a sophisticated style of music combined with poetry, and writing (lyrics). This music was used to reach out to the African American community and show their true talents that were overlooked.

Ragtime, blues, gospel, jazz, swing: these are all types of music styles. They were started at different times, yet still preserved the same purpose of African American performers. Often, this type of music explained the struggles that their people faced throughout their (and their ancestors) lives.

Short Definitions:

  • Ragtime: created in 1910, it was based upon marches and had a steady rhythm (like all music). The king of ragtime was Scott Joplin.
  • Blues: the first recorded blues music was in 1920 by Mamie Smith. blues can go from sad to happy and joyful. blues is similar, and is sometimes compared to gospel.
  • Gospel: similar to blues, has a religious purpose.
  • Jazz: New Orleans was believed to be the birthplace of jazz. By 1920, musicians from New Orleans decided to move on to cities such as Chicago and St. Louis. Jazz moved to different cities as well, such as New York. Jazz was really born in Harlem. A new type of music was brewing, and people liked it. It had vibrancy, life, and feeling. Thomas "Fats" Domino was one of the top artists of the time.
  • Swing: was popular in the 1930's and 40's. swing music can be related to any type of music that involves swing dancing. It's up
tempo, fun, and the perfect music to dance to.


Philosophy was molded by the experience of the Harlem Renaissance, and many important philosophers emerged. And with them, knowledge and emotion did as well.

Alain Leroy Locke was one of the most influential philosophers of the Harlem Renaissance. As an educator and philosopher, he played an important part.
Alain Leroy Locke

"In 1944, [he wrote] under the title "Moral Imperatives for World Order.” In this article, Locke strongly proclaimed his belief that “Realism and idealism should be combined in striking for a world order.” Indeed, he stated “Skeletal ideals of universal human brotherhood have been in the world a long time and we are further from tribal savagery and its tribalism because of these ideals. But they are but partial expressions of what we hope to make them mean and what today's world crisis demands.” Thus, he argued, “The moral imperatives of a new world order are an internationally limited idea of national sovereignty, a non-monopolistic and culturally tolerant concept of race and religious loyalties freed of sectarian bigotry.” (Harlem Renaissance Website )

Another philosopher would be W.E.B. DuBois. He believed that each race should be free and able to “in its own way, to develop for civilization its particular message, its particular ideal, which shall help guide the world nearer and nearer that perfection of human life, for which we all long, that ‘one far off Divine event’” (From “The Conservation of Races”) (Harlem Renaissance Website)


The Harlem Renaissance inspired religion to flourish into many different natures during this time. During the 1920's -30's, different types of Christianity and churches evolved. In 1920, The African American Pentecostal was made. It offered a new experience in relation to old traditions. In 1921, Marcus Garvey organized The African Orthodox Church. It was similar to Orthodox Christianity in Africa. A church was located in Harlem.

Charles A. Tiney was the first African American to write and publish church hymns. The style of the hymns ranged from Gospel to Blues, and held tons of expression concerning faith and religion.

The style of Tradition Gospel was created by Thomas A. Dorsey, and it combined blues, hymns, and polyrhythms. He's known as: "The Father of Gospel."

  • 1924 - "Bishop Ida Robinson establishes the Mt. Sinai Holy Church of America. This Pentecostal sect consisted of member churches in various cities whereby local churches were all headed by women pastors." (Harlem Renaissance Website )


There were many things involved in the political aspects of the Harlem Renaissance. We will redirect you to an external link which has a timeline of the most important events. (Timeline of politics during the Harlem Renaissance)


Many African Americans migrated from the South in order to pursue newer, more lucrative dreams in the North, by indefinitely getting an education. Even though with the 14th and 15th amendments passed, there were still prejudice in in the North. Only in Illinois, Ohio, New Jersey and Indiana where less than half of the schools weren’t segregated. The result of this were the racist principals that operated the schools, which were usually rickety and weren’t safe for children.

Washington’s Educational Philosophy
Booker T. Washington came up with a system of education he called “educational philosophy,” today called vocational education. He stressed the fact that African Americans had to do physical labor, like being a farmer and mechanic, to climb the social ladder. People like John Hope Franklin simply told Washington it wouldn’t work, for he was unaware of the Industrial Revolution a few decades ago.

DuBois’s Educational Philosophy
W.E.B. DuBois

W.E.B. DuBois argued with Washington that his method of education was too economical and not being educated to be in the “Talented Tenth.” The “Talented Tenth” were the predicted 1/10 of well-educated black Americans capable of getting new and well-paying jobs, like being a doctor, lawyers, teachers, and etc. The attempts of the “Talented Tenth” created the NAACP (National Association of the Advancement of Colored People) and the ANA (American Negro Academy).

Learning Centers
The YMCA was originally a place in Harlem that served to black men, who could have fun and also learn and debate on issues at the time. Libraries also allowed black people to read, but less than 20% of libraries in Southern states allowed them to take out any materials.

Web page by Michelle Suez and Tida Yann