Between the 1920s to the mid 1930s, the Harlem Renaissance was a literary, artistic, and intellectual movement that kindled a new black cultural identity. For the first time African American lives were seizing their first chance as a group to express themselves and get a positive response. Harlem, New York was the center of this dramatic cultural change, African Americans transformed social views and began to have more pride in their race, this age produced, visual arts, writer and new music such as jazz. This is one of the most influential movements in African American history.
The Harlem Renaissance was also a time to break free of Victorian moral values, this movement laid all the ground work for a new found consciousness of black lives. It is important to keep in mind that the movement was not restricted to Harlem, Harlem however did attract and produce the most remarkable, intellectual artists, writers, and musicians W of this time, such as Louis Armstrong, Billie Holiday and Zora Neale Hurston. Louis Armstrong was seen was one of the most famous musicians to come out of the Harlem Renaissance.
Born in New Orleans, Louisiana, he came to fame in the 1920s. He was born in a section so poor they called it “The Battlefield”. Armstrong had a difficult childhood, his father had left their family soon after he was born and his mother often turned to prostitution. In the 5th grade Armstrong was forced to leave school and start working to make ends meet. A Jewish family gave him a job collecting junk and delivering coal, it was this family that encouraged Louis to start singing, and would often invite him over for meals.
After his father had been arrested, Louis was sent to a home for colored boys, and there he received musical nstruction and immediately began dreaming of becoming a successful musician. Soon Armstrong began earning a reputation as a blues singer, and later was mentored by Joe King Oliver, and would often use him as a sub. Despite his families following tragedies Armstrong’s reputation continued to grow. In 1916 he replaced Oliver in Kid Ory’s Band which was at the time the most popular band in New Orleans.
In the Summer of 1919 Armstrong had completely quit his labor jobs and played on river boats. While on these river boats Armstrong later came into contact with other jazz legends including Bix Beiderbecke nd Jack Teagarden. In 1923 Armstrong earned his first recorded solo on ‘Chimes Blues’. After getting married to the Oliver’s band Creole Jazz Band’s pianist Hardin, she made it clear she felt Oliver, was holding Louis back. Armstrong later joined the most famous band in New York City, the Fletcher Henderson’s Orchestra in 1924.
While he led a successful career with the orchestra his southern background dint mix well with the urban mentality Henderson’s musicians had, Armstrong left the band in 1925 and returned to Chicago. While in New York Armstrong recorded many side songs. Back in Chicago, Okeh Records decided to let Armstrong make his first records with a band under his own name. From 1925 to 1928 Armstrong made more than 60 records. This high influenced Louis soon to be solo career.
Summer of 1929, Armstrong headed to New York, where he had a role in a Broadway production of Connie’s Hot Chocolates, featuring the music of Fatz Waller and Andy Razaf. Armstrong also was featured nightly on Ain’t Misbehavin’. Armstrong’s daring coal transformations of songs such as “stardust” and “Body and Soul” completely changed the concept of popular singing in the American music norm. His voice and style of music had lasting effects on all singers who came after him such as Bing Crosby, Billie Holiday, Frank Sinatra, and Ella Fitzgerald.
Influencing countless musicians with both his daring trumpet style and unique vocals. Armstrong’s positive stage presence impressed not only the jazz world but all of popular music. He recorded several songs throughout his career, his most popular songs being “La Via En Rose” and “What a Wonderful World. ” Although music was drastically changing during the Harlem renaissance, literature was also booming with cultural change. Zora Neale Hurston was widely known for her anthropology career and being a novelist, her most famous book being The Eyes Were Watching God’.
Born on January 15, 1891, in Eatonville Florida, Hurston as the daughter of two former slaves. Following her mothers death in 1904 and her fathers remarriage, Hurston lived with a number of family members for the next few years. In order to get an education, Zora worked a variety of jobs including playing a maid in a touring Gilbert and Sullivan group. In 1920 she earned an associates degree from Howard university, and would publish works in the newspaper. A few years later she moved to New York City where she was curious and became fixated on the areas thriving art scene.
Living in Harlem in the 1920s, her apartment was a popular spot for social gatherings. At this time Zora experienced a few early literary successes including placing in short-story and playwriting contests in Opportunity Magazine. Hurston also was a serious academic, she received a scholarship to Barnard College where she pursued the subject of anthropology and studied with Franz Boas. Soon Zora returned to floored to collect African-American faultless and continued to publish orks in magazines and newspapers. Hurston also became interested in the fine arts through a number of different projects.
She and her friend Langston Hughes on a play called ‘A Comedy of Negro Life’ conflict through their works eventually lead to a falling out between the two writer. Hurston soon followed these play writings with her novelist career. Her first novel, ‘Jonah’s Groud Vine’ later earned her a fellowship which allowed her to work on her most famous works : Their Eyes Were Watching God. She wrote the novel in 1937 while traveling to Haiti, as well as Jamaica while conducting anthropology research. In 1942 Hurston published her autobiography ‘Dust Track on a Road’.
This was well received by critics, however her writing career slowly diminished after being accused of molesting a 10 year old boy. Although this accusation was proven false it still greatly impacted her writing career. Although she had a legacy and was well liked for her published works, Hurston struggled finically in her later years. She kept writing but couldn’t get many of her works published, and was also highly criticized. After suffering from several strokes, the very famous folklorist and writer died poor on January 28, 1960, nd was buried in an unmarked grave in Fort Piece Florida.
Zora Hurston’s works were not forgotten however, later writer Alice walker revived Hurston’s published works and introduced them to new generations. Hurston later influenced writers such as Toni Morrison and Ralph Ellison. With such famous artists, musicians, and writers, the Harlem Renaissance had influenced black culture till this very day. The civil rights movement, popular music and a sense of wanting complete equality and freedom, can all thank the Harlem Renaissance for this new found power. The Harlem Renaissance ater went on to inspire the massive civil rights movement.
Whites were desperately trying to keep blacks below them in the social change, but with all these new found artists and inspiration, there was no way the black community was going to back down. The Harlem Renaissance showed the African American Community that it was okay to express themselves, to fight back, It helped them realize that they were deserving and were just as good as any white person. African American culture is built up with many layers, and without the layer of the Harlem Renaissance, we would not have the same freedom and equality we have today.