Spanning the 1920s to the mid-1930s, the Harlem Renaissance was a literary, artistic, and intellectual movement that kindled a new black cultural identity. Its essence was summed up by critic and teacher Alain Locke in 1926 when he declared that through art, "Negro life is seizing its first chances for group expression and self determination." Harlem became the center of a "spiritual coming of age" in which Locke's "New Negro" transformed "social disillusionment to race pride." Chiefly literary, the Renaissance included the visual arts but excluded jazz, despite its parallel emergence as a black art form.
Characterizing the Harlem Renaissance was an overt racial pride that came to be represented in the idea of the New Negro who through intellect, the production of literature, art, and music could challenge the pervading racism and stereotypes from the larger white community of that era to promote progressive or socialist politics and racial integration and social integration. The creation of art and literature would serve to Â“upliftÂ” the race. This became known as racial political propaganda. There would be no set style or uniting form singularly characterizing the various forms of art coming out of the Harlem Renaissance. Rather, there would be a mix of contradictory styles embracing European standards, celebrating a Pan-Africanist perspective, Â“high-cultureÂ” and the Â“low-culture or low-life,Â” the traditional form of classical music to the blues and jazz, traditional and new experimental forms in literature like modernism and in poetry, for example, the new form of jazz poetry. This duality would eventually result in a number of African American artists of the Harlem Renaissance coming into conflict with conservatives in the black intelligentsia who would take issue with certain depictions of black life in whatever medium of the arts.
The Harlem Renaissance was one of primarily African American involvement and an intrapersonal support system of black patrons, black owned businesses and publications, and so on. But, on the peripheral it was supported by a number of white Americans who through genuine altruistic generosity, paternalism, and perhaps a degree of liberal guilt provided various forms of assistance to these black artists and opened doors for them which otherwise would have remained closed to the publicizing of their work to a larger audience outside of the black American community. This support often took the form of being a patron, a publisher, or another artist of some variety. Then, there were those whites interested in so-called Â“primitiveÂ” cultures, as many whites viewed black American culture at that time and wanted to see this Â“primitivismÂ” in the work coming out of the Harlem Renaissance. Other interpersonal dealings between whites and blacks can be categorized as exploitational because of the desire to capitalize on the Â“fad,Â” and Â“fascinationÂ” of the African American being in Â“vogue.Â” This vogue of the African American would extend to Broadway, as in Porgy and Bess, and into music where in many instances white band leaders would defy racist attitude to include the best and brightest African American stars of music and song. For blacks, their art was a way to prove their humanity and demand for equality. For a number of whites, preconceived prejudices were challenged and overcome.
The Harlem Renaissance would help lay the foundation of the Civil Rights Movement. Moreover, many black artists coming into their own creativity after this literary movement would take inspiration from it.