University of Arkansas System
Type of paper: Thesis/Dissertation Chapter
The New Negro Movement and Harlem Renaissance
American publishers and critics, in the mainstream circle, took significant notice of African American writers and artists in the neighborhood of Harlem in New York City. This cultural revival of African American literature and arts including music and theater came to be known as the Harlem Renaissance. This cultural revolution of sorts began in 1918 at the end of World War I, peaked in the 1920s and continued in the mid-30s. The Harlem Renaissance came about due to several developments among the African Americans. After the American Civil War from 1861 to 1865 waves of Black American migrants flocked from the impoverished agricultural south to the promise of the industrial north to take on various jobs created by the war.
Educated and social cause advocates were concentrated in Harlem that eventually made it the political and cultural haven of African Americans. African American literature and arts flourished. Black music and musical artists were popular. Black literary works received excellent reviews and critics’ nod and soon enough, national recognition. The literary works depicted African American life. However, there was diversity in these works. There was no style or ideology common in them. Their only desire was to express and tell their audience about the African American life.
In the 1910s the African Americans were pushing for equal rights and opportunities in their ranks. An inspiring figure in that era was Marcus Mosiah Garvey, who was born in Jamaica. Jobs brought him to most parts of Central America, England and the United States. In those places he saw the distressing working conditions and the hardships experienced by the Blacks. He published the Negro World, a weekly, in Harlem from 1918 to 1933. The paper served as a medium for him to articulate his ideals for the Blacks. It was successful with its 50,000 circulation. It had French and Spanish sections. In addition, he was affiliated with other publications.
In 1914, Garvey returned to Jamaica and formed the Universal Negro Movement and Conservation Association and African Communities League or the UNIA, in August 1 of the save year. His objective was to unify the Blacks to create their own country and government. UNIA’s objectives were to promote love and pride for the race, to assist those in need, to re-establish their identity, further education and culture, and open trade and commerce with the world. In 1916 he traveled to the United States to work for making the UNIA an international organization. By 1920 he was successful, UNIA spread in 40 countries with more than 1,100 branches. In 1920, UNIA held its first convention in Harlem which had a great impact on the African American.
The convention adopted what would be the start of a Black nationalist movement – The Declaration of the Rights of the Negro Peoples of the World. The New Negro Movement sought to inculcate pride of race, independence and a better life for African Americans. The 54 articles in the Declaration outlined the abuses on the rights of the Blacks. It denounced the discriminatory practice of subordinating blacks below whites; they demanded to spell Negro with a capital N as respect to their race.
These paid off and the movement was successful. In 1928, Garvey went to Geneva to present the Petition of the Negro Race to the League of Nations. The petition spoke for all the Blacks around the world. It contained the abuses on Blacks in all parts of the world. It sought not only to bring the cause of the Blacks to the rest of the world but also to seek redress. It exposed the apartheid in South Africa and protested its fitness as administrator of Namibia.
The New Negro Movement and the Harlem Renaissance had a common rallying point – the African American race. They pushed for the recognition of the Blacks as equal to any and all other racial groups. They hoped to improve the living conditions, open economic opportunities, and instill pride among its people. The most influential figure of the time was Marcus Gravey who was said to have brought dignity to the Negro. The means to similar ends differed. The artists and writers of the Harlem Renaissance used their music, poetry, and fiction to express in beautiful verses, songs and prose the rich black culture and the aspirations of their race.
The movement worked through their organized network. The movement and the renaissance came almost simultaneously because opportunities were better during the era. Harlem was significant to the African American because the most important dates in the movement and the renaissance happened in the New York community. Harlem was their Mecca, the place that saw their struggles and their victories. Harlem was their home and their refuge.
Wintz, C. DC. (2007). Harlem Renaissance. Microsoft Encarta Online Encyclopedia 2007.
Retrieved April 25, 2007, from http://encarta.msn.com.
UNIA-ACL. (2005, January 28). UNIA History. Retrieved April 25, 2007, from