A Renaissance in Harlem
Lost Voices of An American CommunityBook - 1999
Arguing that the Harlem Renaissance actually lasted much longer than previously portrayed, the author collects more than fifty pieces written for the WPA Writer's Project capturing the voices of war veterans, Pullman porters, prostitutes, preachers, and the first American to plant a flag on the North Pole.
Established to create jobs during the Depression, the Work Projects Administration sent writers into the neighborhoods and alleyways of Harlem to capture its distinctive voices during its most flamboyant, socially active and aesthetically vibrant era. It was a time when Harlem was Mecca, as vital as any world capital, surging with a tide of Negro migrants in search of the American Dream. The 1930s heralded the greatest period of self-discovery in African-American history after the Civil War and before the Civil Rights movement of the 1960s.
In this illuminating document, we are introduced to a West Indian conjure man known for his infallible charms and herbal remedies; a dancer at the Apollo Theater who mourns the untimely death of the entertainer who inspired her; a domestic worker determined to fight for fair wages and better treatment. And we meet Matt Henson at his retirement from his government job, still denied official recognition for his status as the first American to plant the United States flag on the North Pole.
Enter the bars, the nightclubs, the beauty shops, the street markets, the employment offices and homes. Visit with fish vendors, war veterans, Pullman porters, prostitutes, and countless others. Come listen to the memorable sounds of swing music, the singing and shouting of church choirs, and the lonely plea of a mournful spiritual.
A Renaissance In Harlem is an essential addition to the historical record of the African-American experience, a startling re-creation of a lost era in the life of New York City, and a valuable look at the early writings of two masters of American literature. Filled with humor, compassion, outrage and hope, it is an uplifting celebration of a place and people integral to the American story.
Collects more than fifty pieces written for the WPA Writer's Project