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Harlem Renaissance

Culturalmente Imparando

Harlem is one of the most famous neighborhoods in Manhattan, New York. is known above all for the music and cultural effervescence of the local African-American community. However, Harlem is also sadly famous for the poverty and misery suffered since the Second World War and for the segregation of the era. Observing the history of Harlem in the last hundred years you can notice two periods of rebirth, which open and close the hard and long phase in which this populous community was unsearchable and infamous.

Harlem sank into the abyss and became a ghetto of immigrants on the fringes of society in the 1940s. This condition began to be reversed only in the 1990s. This second "renaissance" brought confidence to the inhabitants of the neighborhood, allowing a return to the atmospheres of great artistic and cultural ferment that distinguished the first Renaissance of Harlem, that of the roaring twenties.

The term Harlem Renaissance means that phenomenon that goes from the end of the Ten to the middle of the Thirties. It peaked in the 1920s and began in the African-American art community of Harlem. It later spread throughout the USA. Musicians, dancers, singers, actors but also activists, writers and poets. The renaissance of that period produced some of the greatest names of the 20th century, for example Bessie Smith, Cab Colloway, Billie Holiday, Claude McKay, Louis Armstrong, Ella Fitzgerald, Anne Spencer, Nat King Cole or Alain Leroy Locke (which owes the term Harlem Renaissance, used after the publication of his work The new negro).

This explosion of talent also arose in response to the ruthless racist climate that permeated the USA at the time. The African-American community lived through difficult years, made of privation and subordination to the American white community. Black artists began to experiment in every field their ideas, without conforming to the typical canons pleasing to whites. The renaissance begun in Harlem was therefore also a claim of its identity and dignity by the community of African-American origin, which above all in the literary field denounced its own condition.

The crisis of 1929 and the subsequent Great Depression impoverished the art and entertainment sector, pushing the phenomenon towards the end. Despite the enormous impact of the Harlem Renaissance on African-American culture and the USA in general, after the Second World War Harlem itself fell into disgrace more than it had in the past. Thousands of refugees settled there, while around the Big Apple grew enormously. Within a few decades Harlem became synonymous with a poor and dangerous neighborhood, far from the glories of the Apollo Theater, a cult stage during the Renaissance of the Twenties. The new renaissance of the last thirty years is gradually bringing the neighborhood back to the dignity it deserves, thanks to a social and cultural redevelopment.


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  • L'Autore

    Mario Rafaniello

    Mario Rafaniello Vice Responsabile della rubrica “Culturalmente Imparando”. Partecipa anche all’entusiasmante progetto “Japan 2020” e si interessa di arte, cultura e letteratura.

    Laureato in Giurisprudenza e laureando in Relazioni Internazionali. Attualmente collabora con diversi portali online.

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