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Harlem Renaissance Essay

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The Roaring Twenties

The 1920s were an outburst of Black artistic and literary originality. America began to make progress as a society. The Harlem Renaissance was significant because it was an era in the 1920s when African-Americans made incredible improvements in literary works and art. This was a time for Blacks to show their talents to the world. The Harlem Renaissance was a time for African Americans to portray their culture through numerous categories including music, poetry, and dance. Many talented musicians came out during the Harlem Renaissance. There has been an abundance of musicians that have inspired other people to become as great as them. Born on April 15, 1894 Ms. Bessie Smith had a beautiful voice and she influenced many people every time she sang. People knew Ms. Smith as the “Empress of the Blues” (“Bessie Smith”). In 1919, one of the great blues singers by the name of “Ma” Rainey found Smith and became her mentor and trainer (“Bessie Smith”). Smith was a daring artist, and also very poised, she even sometimes hated the use of a microphone, but her music showed the everyday trials and troubles and the faith of the African-American community (“Bessie Smith”).

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She passed away on September 26, 1937 from critical injuries in a car accident, and her legacy still lived on (“Bessie Smith”). Another famous musician from the Twenties was Louis Armstrong; he was an African-American trumpet player, known as a music and jazz legend in his time. From an early age he had a great interest in music, and in the Waif’s home he learned how to play the cornet in their band in New Orleans (“Louis Armstrong”). Armstrong began having foreign tours in 1932, and he started performing in Broadway shows, innumerable jazz festivals, and even in many American and also foreign films (“Louis Armstrong”). Mr. Armstrong said,” Man, if you have to ask what jazz is, you’ll never know” (“Louis Armstrong”), explaining that jazz is like common sense and if you do not have it, then you never will. Armstrong was very talented and his music from the 1920s has greatly influenced music of today. Poetry was a way for African-Americans to be able to describe their feelings.

Most poets of the day were able to capture people in a manner so magnificent when they wrote their poems. Langston Hughes was a famous African American poet and shared his experiences through his poetry. Besides being a superb poet Mr. Hughes also partook in being an author, scriptwriter, writing short stories, and also a journalist (Niemi1). When Mr. Hughes was a young child, he would read many of his grandfather’s stories and he learned how hard it was being free and that is what inspired him to begin writing (Niemi1). In 1926, Carl Van Vechten helped Mr. Hughes to publish his first book ever and he named it The Weary Blues (Niemi1). His first collection of verse was such a success, that he decided to write a second book of verse called “Fine Clothes to the Jew” in 1927, and this book was more successful than “The Weary Blues” (Niemi 2). He published some of the greatest poems in the world, making the upcoming of poetry such a big deal in the 1920s. Dance in the 1920s was the start of modern age. Dance was a new way to bring out style and showed freedom for Blacks. Many famous dances came out during the 1920s. The popular dance and song, “The Charleston” was created by James Johnson and Cecil Mack, which initiated on the Broadway show Runnin’ Wild in 1923 (Haim 51). Josephine Baker, the French dancer, singer and actress, first preformed it on a show, and that is when this dance became famous. The Charleston showed creativity through many people doing such a difficult dance and enjoying themselves. Everyone had their own view of this dance, and some people felt as though this dance was meaningless. Some people said that you could tell that some of the steps from The Charleston came from African-American traditions, but in all it was a copied conception, a new-planned dance that was made to catch the attentions of others (Haim 52).

The modern dances of today are very common, and are known worldwide, but the dances that happened in the 1920s were the most notable because it was the start of something new. The Harlem Renaissance was the first time that African-Americans were able to shine and they showed this new light through music, poetry, and dance. This new era showed that they were worth more than slaves, and even sharecroppers. People began to see that Blacks were actually cultivated in different areas such as literature and art. They proved themselves to the American society and brought them one step closer away from racism and segregation. African-Americans knew that they would have to do something to show that they were worth more than the world could ever see them as, and if it was through dance, poetry, and music, then they would do that.

These new genres and styles of music began to make other African-Americans see their potential and they were inspired. The 1920s was not only a successful for Blacks, but successful for the United States as a whole. This era has greatly influenced the styles of poetry, dance and especially music of today. Although the styles back in the 1920s were more meaningful and people believe that music today is dying off, music in the 1920s is where it all originated from. Everyone knows that progress is eminent and the 1920s was the African-American’s moment.

Works Cited
“Bessie Smith.” Britannica Online: Britannica Online. Web. Haim, Albert. “The Charleston in the 1920s: The Dance, the Composers, and the Recordings.” IAJRC Journal 45.2 (2012): 51-56. Academic Search Complete. Web. “Louis Armstrong.” Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, 6th Edition (2013): Literary Reference Center. Web Niemi, Robert. “The Poetry of Hughes.” Masterplots II: African American Literature, Revised Edition (2008): 1-3. Literary Reference Center. Web.

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