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The Social, Political and Economic Impact of the Harlem Renaissance

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One of the main goals of the Harlem Renaissance was proving that Black people were not the prejudicial stereotypes that were enforced on them prior to emancipation. This was largely achieved through drawing a focus on black artwork and artists that displayed the intelligence and capability of African-Americans. These art forms socially, economically, and politically impacted the black community to a great extent because it not only changed the way non-blacks detrimentally perceived black people, allowing them a better stance socially, but allowed them to voice and set foundations for their political views, albeit weakening the community economically.

The media of the Harlem Renaissance, particularly the poetry and plays, played an immense role in socially influencing a more positive regard for African Americans. In 1917, during the first stages of the Harlem Renaissance, the opening of “Granny Maumee, The Rider of Dreams, Simon the Cryrenian, Plays for a Negro Theatre” gave prominence to African-American actors protraying themsleves as multifaceted people with complex emotions. Contrary to what was priorly portrayed in racist blackface and minstrel shows in the 1840’s, where black people were shown as childlike and underdeveloped, this play, and plays alike, rejected those stereotypes and showed African-Americans in a new light.

This motif of reshaping the Black Aesthetic in the public eye, regardless of minstrel shows, was manifested through the literature section of the Harlem renaissance as well. Eminent writers in the movement like Langston Hughes, and James Weldon included black vernacular and speech into their works as a way to open the white perspective to different aspects of Black culture. In Hughes poems he writes in James Weldon’s acclaimed book “God’s Trombone”.

Despite the overall success of the Harlem Renaissance recreating the adverse image of African-Americans, some argue that it wasn’t entirely successful because injustices against African-Americans continued despite the large amount of white people that enjoyed the Black Arts of New York. Even so, this viewpoint is narrow. Albeit it is true that injustices against Black Americans still continued, that does not counteract the clear turnaround of interest that White Americans had in Black Arts. This newfound interest, despite still existing racism, is in itself an example of non-blacks being opened to seeing a new side of Black People.

The Harlem Renaissance not only changed the image of black people through largely viewed media, but set up a stage for black political activism. Because of ongoing racism African-Americans were forced into the realization that the prejudice against black people were in the foundations of American Society, it was to the point that some thought it would be useless to continue integrating black and white culture when there was still inequality in the grand scheme. These new identities and realizations increased the social consciousness and political activism of those involved with the movement. So much so that they were prompted into the creation of black organizations rallied for civil rights. It was through these organizations that black people were the most politically affected during, and after, the Harlem Renaissance. Though these organizations only affected the Black community to a certain extent, because they didn’t make great change during the Harlem Renaissance but created a footing for future Black movements and was an avid support for avid creators working in the renaissance .

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One of these organizations was the NAACP, a group created for the sole purpose of fighting for equal rights in all formats. The organization fought truculently for a federal law to prohibit lynchings, and devoted most of their energy to publicizing the lynchings of Blacks throughout the United States. The NAACP also worked internationally with politics, including sending one of their officials, James Weldon, to Haiti to investigate armed forces there. In courts the NAACP prosecuted cases involving disenfranchisement, segregation ordinances, restrictive covenants, and lack of due process and equal protection in criminal cases. Although some cases were won in court and the organization as a whole was important to the flowering of the Harlem Renaissance through aiding and defining the Black Aesthetic, funding for upcoming creators, and providing acclaimed literary works, to an extent. Once again although politically they did not make much change during the Harlem Renaissance; instead they provided a groundwork for future black movements and advocates of the like.

Most organizations founded during the Harlem Renaissance were similar to the NAACP in the fact they fought for social, political, and economic equality, but organizations like the National Urban League, were different in the way that instead of taking an integration like stance like the NAACP, they urged for enabling African-Americans to secure economic self-reliance, parity, power, and civil rights”. It was this organization, the National Urban League, that urged Black Americans to realize their static economic standpoint regardless of the success black arts were attracting to Harlem. It was because of this reliance on white patronage that the Harlem Renaissance negatively affected the Black Community economically.

Initially founded as a social service organization with the idea of aiding African Americans’ resettlement in the North, their work in due course progressed into lobbying businesses and labor unions for Black Americans. This want to separate black economics from white spurred from the success of the Harlem renaissance itself. White patronage and publicity for the Harlem Renaissance was a two-sided coin, while the publicity they got from their white audience turned Harlem into a worldwide sensation they also became financially dependent on white patronage, and even with the success of black artists many institutions where they performed were still segregated for whites only. African-Americans just lacked the Economic institutions and monetary foundation to compensate for such a large scale cultural renaissance. On top of that, initially most new migrants found themselves segregated by practice in run down urban slums where overtime that trend just continued. The largest of these was Harlem. As the Twenties continued the number of black artists who resented white patronage rose, and so did the following for the National Urban League.

In response to the stagnant wealth of the black community the NUL counseled Black Americans into social worker positions, worked to bring educational and employment opportunities to black people, and sponsored studies into disparities in black housing, health, sanitation, and education. Though this was only successful to a moderate extent because, albeit being successful in helping some African-Americans into more jobs, and there were bustling pockets of neighborhoods filled middle class Black Americans like the Hamilton Heights, Sugar Hill, Strivers Row, Mount Morris, overall most African-Americans were lower middle class or poor.

Overall the Harlem Renaissance was not a big economic or political movement, although there were organizations like the NUL that supported Harlem with economical ideologies, they never made a big change for lowering the disparities in wealth between blacks and Whites. The biggest effect of the Harlem Renaissance was social, as it provided a new outlook of Blacks to non-blacks, which was one of the most obstructive hurdles to overcoming racism in America. Although this new image had a social impact, it didn’t help further the civil political pursuit of equality during the Harlem Renaissance.

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The Social, Political and Economic Impact of the Harlem Renaissance. (2022, August 25). Edubirdie. Retrieved December 5, 2022, from https://edubirdie.com/examples/the-social-political-and-economic-impact-of-the-harlem-renaissance/
“The Social, Political and Economic Impact of the Harlem Renaissance.” Edubirdie, 25 Aug. 2022, edubirdie.com/examples/the-social-political-and-economic-impact-of-the-harlem-renaissance/
The Social, Political and Economic Impact of the Harlem Renaissance. [online]. Available at: <https://edubirdie.com/examples/the-social-political-and-economic-impact-of-the-harlem-renaissance/> [Accessed 5 Dec. 2022].
The Social, Political and Economic Impact of the Harlem Renaissance [Internet]. Edubirdie. 2022 Aug 25 [cited 2022 Dec 5]. Available from: https://edubirdie.com/examples/the-social-political-and-economic-impact-of-the-harlem-renaissance/
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