Why Did the Harlem Renaissance Occur?

The Harlem Renaissance, or New Negro Movement, occurred as a result of an increase in radical African-American intellectuals and urban migration into Harlem. Trends towards experimentation were also a contributing factor.

The Harlem Renaissance was a boom of African-American cultural production that influenced the different arts, including music, poetry, activism and literature. Some artists from the period had been part of the Great Migration that occurred after the Civil War, during which a large number of African-American families moved from the south to the north in an effort to find a better life. Some of these families found their way to Harlem, which was originally designed to be a suburban development for white families.

Notable figures of the period, which extended from the 1920s into the 1930s, were Langston Hughes, Arna Bontemps, Duke Ellington and Zora Neale Hurston. The work produced by artists during the Harlem Renaissance was heavily influenced by slavery, institutional racism and the desire for a better life. Many artists were searching for a black identity, and various arts were used to capture the experience of modern blacks living in urban communities. The success of the artists relied on a system of black patrons and some white Americans, such as Charlotte Osgood Mason.