The Harlem Renaissance

This seminar will explore the assumptions and beliefs that led Harlem’s writers, artists, musicians, cultural critics, scholars, and political leaders to insist that they formed a vanguard in the fight for racial equality in the US. Analyzing work by the Renaissance’s major participants—Countee Cullen, W.E.B. Du Bois, Jessie Fauset, Langston Hughes, Zora Neal Hurston, James Weldon Johnson, Alain Locke, and Jean Toomer—we will discuss how the expectations of the period both enabled and limited what these artists were able to accomplish. We will also discuss how the ideas that fueled the Harlem Renaissance may shape our current expectations about the role of artistic and literary production by black Americans. (As part of this latter discussion we will consider Court Theatre's production of Pearl Cleage's play, "Blues for an Alabama Sky," which is set during the waning years of the Renaissance.)