Dankwa Brooks's Reviews > The Harlem Renaissance: Hub of African-American Culture, 1920-1930

The Harlem Renaissance by Steven Watson
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it was amazing

I knew about the HARLEM RENAISSANCE, but I fell in love with the time period when I studied it in Humanities at MORGAN STATE UNIVERSITY. This book is an excellent further exploration of that time period. The book not only highlights the key figures, but the entire environment in which this historically cultural time took place.

Black folk didn’t have a lot of money, didn’t have a lot of anything, but what we had was SOUL. In the book you can see that ever since our presence on this continent, black folk had to do more with less and DID, even to the admiration and adoration of white folk. This book expertly details a lot of that. It also details the patrons of the Renaissance and how that wasn’t necessarily a good thing.
The book touches on all aspects of the renaissance, including the environment/community like the section on the famous “Harlem Rent Parties”, the night life, the famous clubs like THE COTTON CLUB and THE SAVOY BALLROOM and the music artists/performers like JOSEPHINE BAKER, EARL “SNAKEHIPS” TUCKER, BESSIE SMITH, BILL “BOJANGLES” ROBINSON and ETHEL WATERS. The book focused most on the intellectuals, writers and journalists of the renaissance.

Famous figures like W. E. B. DU BOIS, LANGSTON HUGHES and ZORA NEALE HURSTON are heavily featured, but also JAMES WELDON JOHNSON, ALAIN LOCKE, ARTURO SCHOMBURG, WALLACE THURMAN, CLAUDE MCKAY, JEAN TOOMER and COUNTEE CULLEN are featured prominently.
The book also highlighted the patrons of the renaissance like the “Harlem Hostess” A’LELIA WALKER, but also white patrons like CHARLOTTE MASON and CARL VAN VECHTEN.

As a passage in the book stated, “CONTROLLING THE BLACK IMAGE. One consequence of the rising white interest in African-American literature was the black intelligentsia's drive to control its own image. Renaissance writers, intellectuals, and artists were charged with articulating a racial identity that not only plumbed indigenous black experience but simultaneously assumed a positive face for white society.“ This is ALWAYS the struggle.

The book was a WEALTH of information on this time period. This was SUCH a prodigious time for black artists and being a black artist, the Harlem Renaissance has always made me PROUD.

EPILOGUE
Because I’m so in love with the time period, I took copious notes via GoodReads on the book and shared them on the site at https://www.goodreads.com/user_status...
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Reading Progress

December 3, 2019 – Started Reading
December 3, 2019 – Shelved
December 3, 2019 –
0.0% "QUOTE in the Foreword “Complex works of art speak not through individuals but ensembles.” —PAUL ROSENFELD"
December 3, 2019 –
page 1
0.42% "Chapter 1: The New Negro Movement is Born"
December 3, 2019 –
page 6
2.5% "This page talks about Rent Parties. I never heard of a “Rent Party” before the classic ‘Good Times’ episode appropriately titled “The Rent Party” (S3.E24). Of course they also talked about “The old Harlem Rent Parties” in ‘Sanford and Son’: “The Big Party” (S2.E15)"
December 3, 2019 –
page 6
2.5% "LAWD “The renovated tenement, dubbed “Niggerati Manor” by habitué ZORA NEALE HURSTON, had become a local legend for its ribald residents, the bright phalluses painted on its walls, the sourmash rumored to fill all its bathtubs, and the gin that flowed from its taps.”"
January 8, 2020 –
page 11
4.58% "Got to pick up my reading on this"
January 8, 2020 –
page 11
4.58% "“The first uptown Negro settlement can be pinpointed to an apartment house at 31 West 133rd Street in 1905.”"
January 8, 2020 –
page 11
4.58% "“The combination of a national depression, overbuilding in Harlem, and a murder within the apartment house made rooms unrentable; the owner turned to a black realtor named PHILLIP A. PAYTON, who filled the building with reliable Negro tenants who would willingly pay $5 more than any white renter (a common practice).”"
January 8, 2020 –
page 11
4.58% "“The president of the Harlem Property Owners Protective Association urged residents to take their stand [against “black hordes”] by building a twenty-four-foot-high fence at 136 Street.”"
January 8, 2020 –
page 13
5.42% "This page talks about black organizations and Negro businesses in Harlem."
January 8, 2020 –
page 16
6.67% "They talk about African American Periodicals starting here."
January 8, 2020 –
page 17
7.08% "“Newspapers and magazines constituted the primary written record of the race, for books were too expensive to reach a broad readership.”"
January 8, 2020 –
page 17
7.08% "“Any discussion of the Harlem Renaissance must begin with W.E.B. DUBOIS, the towering Negro intellectual of the early 20th century.”"
January 8, 2020 –
page 19
7.92% "“A social scientist and political leader, DuBois was also Harlem’s first culture czar. He espoused the classical formula that he took to be universal among his race—that Art should be earnest, beautiful, and above all didactic. “Thus all Art is propaganda and ever must be despite the wailing of the purists, “ he wrote.

(1 of 2)"
January 8, 2020 –
page 19
7.92% "(2/2) Art to be an essential race-building tool, and he predicted that just as black music had won recognition in America, so too would Negro writers. In the spring of 1920, he sounded the inspiring call to arms: “A renaissance of American Negro literature is due; the material about us in the strange, heart-rending race tangle is rich beyond dream and only we can tell the tale and sing the song from the heart.”"
January 8, 2020 –
page 23
9.58% "“The world does not know that a people is great until that people produces great literature and art.

...And nothing will do more to change the mental attitude and raise his status than a demonstration of intellectual parity by the Negro through the production of literature and art.” JAMES WELDON JOHNSON"
January 9, 2020 –
page 23
9.58% "Starting with the profile on ALAIN LOCKE"
January 9, 2020 –
page 26
10.83% "[CHARLES S. JOHNSON] concluded that the only crack in the nation’s racist armor was art and literature, and he set out to become its impresario."
January 9, 2020 –
page 26
10.83% "CHARLES S. JOHNSON mobilized such fellow spirits as ALAIN LOCKE, writer ERIC WALROND, and bank messenger-bibliophile ARTHUR SCHOMBURG. He kept dossiers on all African American writers whose names appeared in print, he organized regular informal meetings to discuss “books and things,” he invited promising writers to New York and he gave them key phone numbers and addresses to get them started."
January 9, 2020 –
page 27
11.25% "CHARLES S. JOHNSON would stage a dinner that would formally introduce the New Negro to the white publishing world and position ‘Opportunity’ (his publication) at center stage. As Johnson observed, "Literature has always been a great liaison between races. "30 Looking back at the end of his life, he recalled, "What was necessary was a revolution and a revelation...”"
January 9, 2020 –
page 29
12.08% "PP 27-29 details “The Coming Out Dinner”, March 21, 1924."
January 9, 2020 –
page 50
20.83% "“There is no thrill in the world like entering, for the first time, New York harbor, coming in from the flat monotony of the sea to this rise of dreams and beauty." LANGSTON HUGHES"
January 9, 2020 –
page 61
25.42% "After traveling the world [LANGSTON] HUGHES was reassured to find that Harlem was still the black mecca."
January 9, 2020 –
page 61
25.42% "Wow. That was one helluva first chapter “The New Negro Movement Is Born” detailing all the “greats” of the Renaissance."
January 12, 2020 –
page 65
27.08% "Starting Chapter Two—Harlem is Fashionable"
January 12, 2020 –
page 67
27.92% "The introduction of ZORA NEALE HURSTON at a Harlem literary celebration is the most gangsta shit EVER! LOL"
January 12, 2020 –
page 67
27.92% "(1/2) At the 1st Opportunity Awards Dinner in Spring 1925.

The recipient of the most Opportunity awards that evening was an unknown writer named ZORA NEALE HURSTON; she won not only second prizes for drama (Color Struck) and fiction ("Spunk"), but also honorable mentions for two other works.“"
January 12, 2020 –
page 67
27.92% "(2/2) [ZORA NEALE HURSTON]strode through the room filled with her fellow writers, unfurled her bright scarf, and reiterated the title of her play at the top of her lungs, "COLOR . . R.R STRUCK . . KK!”"
January 12, 2020 –
page 78
32.5% "(1/2) [COUNTEE] Cullen's position was consolidated when Harper published ‘Color’ in 1925. Both the white and black press responded favorably, some immoderately so. ALAIN LOCKE’S encomium was no surprise: "Ladies and gentlemen! A genius! Posterity will laugh at us if we do not proclaim him now.""
January 12, 2020 –
page 78
32.5% "COUNTEE CULLEN (2/2)

But a critic in the ‘Yale Review’ carried the praise even further. "There is no point in measuring him merely beside Dunbar . and other Negro poets of the past and present: he must stand or fail beside Shakespeare and Keats and Masefield, Whitman and Poe and Robinson."

This was exactly the sort of review Cullen most cherished, for he wanted to be evaluated for his talent alone."
January 12, 2020 –
page 81
33.75% "LAWD, this wedding of COUNTEE CULLEN (1/2)

Cullen received his most public pedigree in the spring of 1928, when he married YOLANDE DU BOIS, the daughter of W. E. B. DU BOIS."
January 12, 2020 –
page 80
33.33% "Wedding of COUNTEE CULLEN (2/3)

Some members of Harlem society wondered whether the union could work, since Yolande Du Bois was infatuated with band leader Jimmie Lunceford ("The New King of Syncopation") and Cullen was more attracted to Harold Jackman, the urbane, handsome schoolteacher who had been his closest friend since De Witt Clinton High School days."
January 12, 2020 –
page 80
33.33% "Wedding of COUNTEE CULLEN (3/3)

Nevertheless the marriage was widely viewed as the merger of intellect and beauty."
January 12, 2020 –
page 82
34.17% "CLAUDE MCKAY (1/2)

Although he was geographically remote, McKay proclaimed his American roots in his novel ‘Home to Harlem’, arguably the best of the spate of black novels that appeared in 1928."
January 12, 2020 –
page 82
34.17% "CLAUDE MCKAY (2/2)
His picaresque tale offered working-class African-American characters set against the backdrop of Harlem streetlife and nightlife, and featured pimps, loan sharks, prostitutes, crap shooters, and Pullman car waiters. Notably absent from its pages were the Talented Tenth."
January 12, 2020 –
page 84
35.0% "“within two weeks of its publication, [CLAUDE MCKAY’s] ‘Home to Harlem’ became the first novel by an African-American writer to hit the best-seller list.”"
January 30, 2020 –
page 84
35.0% "New section on JEAN TOOMER."
January 30, 2020 –
page 88
36.67% "“I cannot bear to associate with the ordinary run of people...I have to surround myself with individuals who for the most part are more than a trifle insane.” WALLACE THURMAN"
January 30, 2020 –
page 89
37.08% "NIGGERATI MANOR, 267 West 136th Street. Rooms were given out free to artists, because the owner, IOLANTHE SYDNEY, believed that indigence was essential to the artistic life."
January 30, 2020 –
page 89
37.08% "Visual artist AARON DOUGLAS moved from Kansas City to Harlem in 1924."
January 30, 2020 –
page 90
37.5% "Visual artist RICHARD BRUCE NUGENT."
January 30, 2020 –
page 91
37.92% "‘FIRE!!’ Wild publication of the Harlem Renaissance. Featuring works from all the greats “appeared in November 1926."
January 30, 2020 –
page 92
38.33% "Ever the struggle “CONTROLLING THE BLACK IMAGE. One consequence of the rising white interest in African-American literature was the black intelligentsia's drive to control its own image. Renaissance writers, intellectuals, and artists were charged with articulating a racial identity that not only plumbed indigenous black experience but simultaneously assumed a positive face for white society. “"
January 30, 2020 –
page 94
39.17% "(1/2) At the other extreme from Du Bois were the younger generation associated with Niggerati Manor: Wallace Thurman, Langston Hughes, Zora Neale Hurston, and Richard Bruce Nugent. They embraced precisely the vernacular expressions that Du Bois hoped to transform."
January 30, 2020 –
page 94
39.17% "(2/3) They wrote in the urban idiom of Harlem street slang and in the rural idiom of folklore; they presented prostitutes, homosexuals, and sweetbacks; they set their stories in rent parties, basement cabarets, and Lenox Avenue tenements. They viewed such melodramatic features of black life as its most vital, its truest, and its greatest hope for an indigenous black literature."
January 30, 2020 –
page 94
39.17% "(3/3) Thus Hughes employed a blues aesthetic in his poetry, Thurman wrote about urban workingclass figures, and Hurston presented the rural folk life of Eatonville."
January 30, 2020 –
page 95
39.58% "“Negrotarians” a word dubbed by ZORA NEALE HURSTON for white patrons of the Renaissance. LOL"
February 6, 2020 –
page 97
40.42% "(1/3) “Dominating the early generation [of Negrotarians] were Jewish capitalists, who promoted education and civil rights. Their alliance with African Americans was formed, in part, in reaction to the enemies they had in common—embodied in the Ku Klux Klan—& also by a sense of identification with the Negro's plight. ' 'The depths of that problem in all their horror, only a Jew can fathom," wrote Theodore Herzl."
February 6, 2020 –
page 97
40.42% "NEGROTARIANS (2/3) Julius Rosenwald, for example, in 1910 spent some of his Sears, Roebuck & Company fortune on the construction of twenty-five YMCAs for African Americans. (Following Rosenwald's example, the Rockefellers built several YMCAs in New York.)"
February 6, 2020 –
page 97
40.42% "NEGROTARIANS (3/3) The Spingarns—Joel, his wife Amy, and his brother Arthur—had been instrumental figures in the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People since its founding in 1910, and continued actively supporting Negro causes for several decades."
February 6, 2020 –
page 97
40.42% "SALON NEGROTARIANS (1/2) The 1920s introduced a new breed of Negrotarians. Many of the newcomers traveled in literary, artistic, and high bohemian circles. Their interest focused on the expressive powers they detected in the New Negro writers, and in black life itself, both urban and rural."
February 6, 2020 –
page 97
40.42% "SALON NEGROTARIANS (1/2) The 1920s introduced a new breed of Negrotarians. Many of the newcomers traveled in literary, artistic, and high bohemian circles. Their interest focused on the expressive powers they detected in the New Negro writers, and in black life itself, both urban and rural."
February 6, 2020 –
page 97
40.42% "SALON NEGROTARIANS (2/2)
Only a small minority of this group contributed money to Negro causes; historian David Levering Lewis described them as "Salon Negrotarians." Their genuine appreciation of black performing and literary arts and Harlem's exciting milieu was mixed with self-interested investment and attention to cultural fashion."
February 6, 2020 –
page 98
40.83% "The Negrotarian who most enjoyed the spotlight was CARL VAN VECHTEN."
February 6, 2020 –
page 100
41.67% "NEGROTARIAN PARTIES (1/2)
“It was commonly believed within New York's high bohemian circles that, as one observer put it, "Negroes always make any party brighter and more amusing, " and Van Vechten's were not the only parties that included black guests—for so did those given by Muriel Draper, Amy Spingarn, and Eddie Wasserman.”"
February 6, 2020 –
page 100
41.67% "NEGROTARIAN PARTIES (2/2)
"But only Carl Van Vechten's parties," Langston Hughes recalled, "were so Negro that they were reported as a matter of course in the colored society columns.”"
February 6, 2020 –
page 101
42.08% "The CARL VAN VECHTEN parties had ALL the luminaries of the time. Black and white. The parties sounded like ALL the rage."
February 6, 2020 –
page 101
42.08% "This page talks about VAN VECHTEN’S book “Nigger Heaven”"
February 6, 2020 –
page 103
42.92% "HARLEMANIA (1/3) The fascination with Harlem gathered steam in the mid-1920s and peaked just before the Wall Street crash in 1929. Its effect was felt not only Downtown, where black revues had become a Broadway staple throughout the 1920s, but also across the Atlantic in France, where dancer Josephine Baker and black jazz bands dominated Montmartre’s intimate cabarets."
February 6, 2020 –
page 103
42.92% "HARLEMANIA (1/3) The fascination with Harlem gathered steam in the mid-1920s and peaked just before the Wall Street crash in 1929. Its effect was felt not only Downtown, where black revues had become a Broadway staple throughout the 1920s, but also across the Atlantic in France, where dancer Josephine Baker and black jazz bands dominated Montmartre’s intimate cabarets."
February 6, 2020 –
page 104
43.33% "HARLEMANIA (2/3)
Stylish Parisians fetishized blacks before their American counterparts. As Lincoln Kirstein remarked, "To us, Harlem was far more an arrondissement of Paris than a battleground of Greater New York.""
February 6, 2020 –
page 105
43.75% "HARLEMANIA (3/3)
As Wallace Thurman observed, the Harlem mix provided "a modern Babel mocking the gods with its cosmopolitan uniqueness.”"
February 6, 2020 –
page 106
44.17% "Blaxploitation before Blaxploitation “By the second half of the decade, black revues were joined on Broadway by plays written by whites about African-American life: Edward Sheldon and Charles MacArthur's melodrama, Lulu Belle (1926), DuBose and Dorothy Heyward's Porgy (1927, the source for Gershwin's Porgy and Bess), and Marc Connelly's Green Pastures (1930).”"
February 6, 2020 –
page 109
45.42% "''No dance invented by white men has been danced at any genuinely high-toned shindig in America since the far-off days of the Wilson Administration," H. L. Mencken archly observed in 1927.

When choreographer Frederick Ashton needed dancers for Four Saints in Three Acts, the epochal modernist opera by Gertrude Stein and Virgil Thomson, he headed straight for Harlem's Savoy Ballroom."
February 16, 2020 –
page 110
45.83% "This page starts highlighting the music artists of the Harlem Renaissance starting with the legend JOSEPHINE BAKER."
February 16, 2020 –
page 124
51.67% "In the section “HARLEM AFTER DARK: A TOUR”

"Harlem is the one place that is gay and delightful however dull and depressing the downtown regions may be," novelist MAX EWING wrote his mother. "Nothing affects the vitality and the freshness of Harlem.”"
February 16, 2020 –
page 125
52.08% "The uncontested Big Three (White Oriented Trade Clubs of Harlem) were THE COTTON CLUB, CONNIE’S INN and SMALL’S PARADISE."
February 16, 2020 –
page 126
52.5% "THE COTTON CLUB was not the only Harlem club catered to white audiences, but it was the largest, featured the most extravagant shows, charged the highest prices, and most strictly enforced the color line. No less than England's Lady Mountbatten dubbed it "the Aristocrat of Harlem."
February 16, 2020 –
page 126
52.5% "Did not know this “Getting the jump on the Uptown craze, mobster OWNEY MADDEN opened THE COTTON CLUB in the fall of 1923 as the East Coast outlet for his bootleg beer."
February 16, 2020 –
page 128
53.33% "THE COTTON CLUB (1/2) The division between the performers and the audience was more carefully maintained than in any other club in Harlem. (Even its name evoked both the antebellum South and the color of its patrons.) The club was owned by white mobsters, its shows written and directed by whites from Broadway and performed for an all-white audience."
February 16, 2020 –
page 128
53.33% "THE COTTON CLUB (2/3)
Black performers did not mix with the club's clientele, and after the show many of them went next door to the basement of the superintendent at 646 Lenox, where they imbibed corn whiskey, peach brandy, and marijuana."
February 16, 2020 –
page 128
53.33% "THE COTTON CLUB (3/3)
"It isn't necessary to mix with colored people if you don't feel like it," JIMMY DURANTE comforted the squeamish. The Cotton Club allowed the timid and well-heeled to cautiously dip their stylishly shod feet into the roiling waters of prime itive Uptown."
February 23, 2020 –
page 128
53.33% "Working-Class Speakeasies"
February 23, 2020 –
page 129
53.75% "The decibel level went up after 3:00 A.M., when New York's curfew law shuttered the city's legitimate cabarets. At this point, moonlighting performers dropped into the clubs that had paid off the police for "special charters."
February 23, 2020 –
page 130
54.17% "This is the page that starts the section on RENT PARTIES."
February 23, 2020 –
page 130
54.17% "Re: RENT PARTIES “These events, which were Harlemized versions of the JOOK-JOINT parties of the Deep South, reminded many recent immigrants of their roots.”"
February 25, 2020 –
page 138
57.5% "Starting with the SAVOY BALLROOM"
February 25, 2020 –
page 139
57.92% "This page they talk about the various dances back then."
February 25, 2020 –
page 140
58.33% "This is where the book starts talking about the “Harlem Hostess” A’LELIA WALKER."
February 25, 2020 –
page 144
60.0% "“Godmother’s Court” starts the section on white patron of the Renaissance CHARLOTTE VAN DER VEER QUICK MASON aka CHARLOTTE MASON aka “Godmother”."
February 25, 2020 –
page 148
61.67% "The relationship between “ZORA AND GODMOTHER” (ZORA NEALE HURSTON and CHARLOTTE MASON) was wild, but led to Hurston’s artistic depth and freedom."
February 25, 2020 –
page 152
63.33% "This page starts a “Flashback: Zora and Langston’s Southern Idylll”"
February 25, 2020 –
page 152
63.33% ""The trouble with white folks singing blues...is that they can't get low down enough." BESSIE SMITH"
February 29, 2020 –
page 157
65.42% "Last Chapter: AFTER THE RENAISSANCE. Finally."
February 29, 2020 –
page 157
65.42% "After The Renaissance (1/3)

THE END: 1929 AND AFTER. The Wall Street Crash of October 29, 1929, marked the close of an epoch: the era of the Charleston and speakeasies, black wunderkinds and James J. Walker, was replaced by insecurity and breadlines, overcrowding and the Scottsboro Boys."
February 29, 2020 –
page 157
65.42% "After The Renaissance (2/3)
Even Carl Van Vechten forswore drinking and smoking, and within a few years his wife would declare the Harlem experience "a phase in the life of this generation. It was all very hollow.""
February 29, 2020 –
page 157
65.42% "After The Renaissance (3/3)
The Crash ushered in a period in which white patrons attended to more immediately pressing financial matters than their support of Negro writers. "We were no longer in vogue, anyway, we Negroes," recalled Langston Hughes. "Sophisticated New Yorkers turned to Noel Coward. ""
February 29, 2020 –
page 158
65.83% "Blacks from around the world migrated to one of the most densely crowded regions of the world. (1/2)"
February 29, 2020 –
page 158
65.83% "Prejudice grew as jobs diminished—after the Crash, unemployment in Harlem was five times that of the rest of the city. Ugly incidents such as the one in Alabama, sentencing to death the Scottsboro Boys (nine black youths aged thirteen to nineteen) on trumped-up charges of raping two white prostitutes, spotlit America's still-prevailing forces of bigotry. (2/2)"
February 29, 2020 –
page 160
66.67% "HURSTON AND HUGHES AND MASON AND LOCKE: THE BREAKUP."
February 29, 2020 –
page 163
67.92% "The Death of A’LELIA WALKER."
February 29, 2020 –
page 172
71.67% "Great final section on ZORA NEALE HURSTON pgs 169-172"
February 29, 2020 –
page 181
75.42% "(1/2) And the book ends with the section on LANGSTON HUGHES. Pages 174-181. “His funeral, a celebration of the poet, featured a service of blues, jazz, poems, and reminiscences, concluding with Duke Ellington's "Do Nothing Until You Hear from Me.""
February 29, 2020 –
page 181
75.42% "(2/2) And the book ends with the section on LANGSTON HUGHES. Pages 174-181.
The day ended at a crematory as a dwindling group of his closest friends joined hands. As Hughes's body was wheeled toward the flames, they recited in unison the legendary poem of his early ears, "The Negro Speaks of Rivers.” Page 181 has just the poem."
February 29, 2020 – Finished Reading

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