Harlem Renaissance Re-Examined

By Victor A. Kramer; Robert A. Russ | Go to book overview

tural history. These continuing returns say profoundly that the Harlem Renaissance was most important to us because it affirmed what we continue to value. This engagement by scholars allows them to affirm, again, a moment when the arts were at the vanguard of social and cultural change. The Harlem Renaissance in American scholarship has become like the "American Renaissance" in the 1840s and '50s and in some ways like the Southern Renaissance of the 1920s-- a moment of affective, celebratory cultural memory. 20 It represents a place and time which symbolize not only the burgeoning cultural independence of Black Americans in the 1920s, but also what we value in our national, intellectual culture as a whole. Each time that we return to an examination of the Harlem Renaissance, we come not only to understand an earlier time but also to find the clues to how we might recreate the dynamics or this kind of expressive cultural moment again in other circumstances.

Looking back at the Renaissance again and again continues to offer the possibility that we will find one more photograph, relationship, unpublished poem, undocumented contribution, or unrealized literary interpretation that will help inspire us and affirm in us the value of this kind of artistic engagement in the culture. Such continuing studies help us to explain the genesis and the growth of such moments and the true measure and meaning of their failure and success. In so doing, we can analyze, if not celebrate, once more a moment when the arts--literature, painting, drama, and music--brought people together and encouraged optimism and self-affirmation. This was a time when the arts became a concentrated symbol of the energy, the activism, the conflict, the hope, the possibility that artistic involvement by both the artists and the society could produce. In re-examining such moments we keep before us what was the best in us, and in any society: the possibility to redefine ourselves, to reach out to our neighbors, and to influence and inspire successive generations.


NOTES
1.
Nathan Huggins, Harlem Renaissance ( New York: Oxford Univ. Press, 1971).
2.
Arna Bontemps, ed., Harlem Renaissance Remembered ( New York: Dodd Mead, 1972).
3.
Studies in the Literary Imagination. Georgia State Univ., Atlanta, Georgia, 1974.
4.
David Levering Lewis. When Harlem was in Vogue. ( New Yourk: Knopf, 1981).
5.
Amritjit Singh, William S. Shiver, and Stanley Brodwin, eds. The Harlem Renaissance: Revaluations ( New York: Garland, 1989).
6.
Amritjit Singh, Introduction, The Harlem Renaissance: Revaluations, p. xi.
7.
Victor A. Kramer, ed. The Harlem Renaissance Re-examined ( New York: AMS Press, 1987).
8.
Houston A. Baker, Jr. Modernism and the Harlem Renaissance. ( Chicago: Univ. of Chicago Press, 1987).
9.
George Hutchinson. The Harlem Renaissance in Black and White. ( Cambridge: Harvard Univ. Press, 1995).
10.
See "Conversations With Dorothy West" with Deborah McDowell in this volume, pp. 285-303; Langston Hughes, The Big Sea ( New York: Hill & Wang, 1940); Zora NealeHurston

-381-

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