The Negro Renaissance of the 1920s was a reflection in literature and art of the cultural changes experienced by the American Negro as he left the rural South for the economic and social advantages found in northern cities. The crowded, bustling life of the northern ghettoes accelerated the breakdown of older patterns of Negro life and thought, and gave rise to the concept of the "New Negro." Although the meaning of the term was somewhat vague, it contained the implication of the Negro's psychological break with past racial attitudes of subservience, humility, and self-apology. Negro writers, musicians, and painters of the Twenties attempted to give artistic expression to the more positive attitudes of self-acceptance and self-respect which the image of the New Negro seemed to connote. Rejecting past depictions of Negro life by Negro artists as being either too polemical or too apologetic, many of the young artists of the Negro Renaissance sought to portray Negro life objectively.
During the early years of the decade, writers of the Negro intelligentsia who aspired to portray the image of the New Negro were faced with two major difficulties: the absence of an audience for their work and the lack of a means of publication. In addition, there was disagreement among the artists of the Negro Renaissance as to how the Negro should be portrayed. Some felt that the lower- class stratum of Negro life should be ignored; others believed that the vital elements of the Negro's cultural heritage were to be found primarily in lower- class Negro folk-life. These problems were further complicated by the struggle of most of the Negro artists to overcome the cultural dualism inherent in being both black and American.
The publicity which attended the announcement of the New Negro concept was instrumental in bringing the problems confronting Negro Renaissance art