Thursday, June 25, 2009

Another Rebirth in Harlem

Langston Hughes. Zora Neale Hurston. Paul Robeson. W. E. B. Dubois. Duke Ellington. Louis Armstrong.
What do each of these names have in common? All of them belong to prominent intellectual, artistic, and political figures within the black community whose rise to prominence in America between the end of World War I and the beginning of World War II is known today as the Harlem Renaissance.
The flowering that occurred during this two-decade period and centered around a small neighborhood in Manhattan was brought about by the rise of a black middle class. As more and more African-Americans were allowed opportunities for education and socio-economic advancement (which had been denied to their ancestors for hundreds of years), scores of black men and women cultivated these benefits into a cultural movement that affected not only the growing black minority in America, but soon the rest of the nation and the entire world.
That voice has not been silenced by the passage of the years. The textured human mosaic that is the Harlem district of Manhattan continues to seeth with words, actions, ideas, and political and cultural movements, all of which have the potential to change the American landscape as profoundly as their antecedents did three generations ago. The only question is whether the attention that it was paid in the Interbellum years will be offered again. Now that one man who insists that it should is now beginning to speak up, it is my hope that America will decide to listen.

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