Harlem Renaissance

Harlem Renaissance

Harlem Renaissance

Harlem Renaissance

Synopsis

A finalist for the 1972 National Book Award, hailed by The New York Times Book Review as "brilliant" and "provocative," Nathan Huggins' Harlem Renaissance was a milestone in the study of African-American life and culture. Now this classic history is being reissued, with a new foreword by acclaimed biographer Arnold Rampersad. As Rampersad notes, "Harlem Renaissance remains an indispensable guide to the facts and features, the puzzles and mysteries, of one of the most provocative episodes in African-American and American history." Indeed, Huggins offers a brilliant account of the creative explosion in Harlem during these pivotal years. Blending the fields of history, literature, music, psychology, and folklore, he illuminates the thought and writing of such key figures as Alain Locke, James Weldon Johnson, and W.E.B. DuBois and provides sharp-eyed analyses of the poetry of Claude McKay, Countee Cullen, and Langston Hughes. But the main objective for Huggins, throughout thebook, is always to achieve a better understanding of America as a whole. As Huggins himself noted, he didn't want Harlem in the 1920s to be the focus of the book so much as a lens through which readers might see how this one moment in time sheds light on the American character and culture, not just in Harlem but across the nation. He strives throughout to link the work of poets and novelists not only to artists working in other genres and media but also to economic, historical, and cultural forces in the culture at large. This superb reissue of Harlem Renaissance brings to a new generation of readers one of the great works in African-American history and indeed a landmark work in the field of American Studies.

Excerpt

It is a rare and intriguing moment when a people decide that they are the instruments of history-making and race-building. It is common enough to think of oneself as part of some larger meaning in the sweep of history, a part of some grand design. But to presume to be an actor and creator in the special occurrence of a people’s birth (or rebirth) requires a singular self-consciousness. In the opening decades of the twentieth century, down into the first years of the Great Depression, black intellectuals in Harlem had just such a self-concept. These Harlemites were so convinced that they were evoking their people’s “Dusk of Dawn” that they believed that they marked a renaissance.

Historians have liked to use that word to characterize some moment when a “culture,” once dormant, has been reawakened. But even the most conventional of them will confess the concept is a historical fiction, a contrivance of imaginations steeped in resurrections and similar rites of spring. Seldom, however, have the people—the subjects of such historyknowing their roles, inquired of themselves, “how goes the . . .

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