The early 1920s witnessed the birth of the "New Negro." It was the era of the Harlem Renaissance, a time of cultural achievement, political insight, and great jazz. Celebrated authors such as Langston Hughes and Zora Neale Hurston broke racial barriers to influence the cultural mainstream.
After the end of slavery, many blacks from the south migrated to industrial northern cities. This urbanization of African-Americans was a significant contributor to the Harlem Renaissance.
Cause: Search for Identity
After World War 1, black soldiers returned from Europe and searched for their unique place in the nation they fought so hard to protect. For the first time, both whites and blacks in America were acknowledging the national identity of the Negro.
Cause: Talented Tenth
Author W.E.B. Du Bois wrote an article in 1903 called the "Talented Tenth," which asserted that one in ten African-Americans were born leaders. This article did not address any specific individuals, but encouraged all African-Americans to excel through achievements in literary and visual arts.
Effect: Group Expression
The Harlem Renaissance produced great intellectuals in African-American history like W.E.B. Du Bois and Alan Locke. In his anthology "The New Negro" philosopher Alan Locke writes, "Negro life is seizing upon its first chances for group expression and self-determination."
Effect: Political Change
The Harlem Renaissance sparked an era of racial cooperation, at least in terms of cultural acceptance and artistic exchange. Important figures such as Marcus Garvey also inspired a new sense of national identity among African-Americans, which carried over into the Civil Rights Movement of the 1960s.
Effect: Cultural Influence
One cultural effect of the Harlem Renaissance was the influence of African-American artists on mainstream America, like Duke Ellington in jazz and Zora Neale Hurston's literary prose.