What Are the Causes of the End of the Harlem Renaissance?

By Buffy Naillon ; Updated September 15, 2017

The influence of the Harlem Renaissance, that great awakening of black American culture, is still felt in America and around the world today. However, modern-day critics as well as historians cannot name its exact beginning nor end. Nor can they name one exact cause of its demise, although they do cite one major event as the primary cause.

Simple Explanation

According to Kareem Abdul-Jabbar in his book, "On the Shoulders of Giants: My Journey Through the Harlem Renaissance" the Harlem Renaissance didn't exactly end, but rather its appeal to whites did.

Exodus of Key Characters

Organizations like NAACP as well as key figures in the literary world like Langston Hughes and James Weldon Johnson turned their attention elsewhere or left Harlem altogether near the end of the movement

Prohibition Act

According to biography.com, although drinking was not prohibited during Prohibition, alcohol was difficult to obtain legally. Speakeasies like the Cotton Club relied on clients coming uptown to get alcohol. With the repeal of the Act, people didn't need to travel uptown to get alcohol.

Civil Unrest

In 1935, a riot broke out in Harlem, increasing tensions between African-Americas and whites in Harlem.

Great Depression

According to biography.com, the Great Depression is sited as the biggest blow to the Harlem Renaissance. Microsoft's Encarta elaborates this further by saying its influence fueled all the other aforementioned causes of the end of the Renaissance.

About the Author

Buffy Naillon has worked in the media industry since 1999, contributing to Germany's "Der Spiegel" magazine and various websites. She received a bachelor's degree in German from Boise State University. Naillon also attended New York University and participated in the foreign exchange program at Germany's Saarland University. She is completing her master's degree in educational technology at Boise State.