Today’s Wonder of the Day was inspired by Julie from Dedham, MA. Julie Wonders, “What is the Harlem Renaissance?” Thanks for WONDERing with us, Julie!

The Civil War ended slavery in the United States. But it didn’t end racism. This was especially true in the South. There, Jim Crow laws denied Black Americans their rights. Racist groups also brought about a lot of violence. As a result, many Black people moved to find better lives.

Between 1890 and 1920, thousands of Black Americans moved north. In all, about 300,000 people left the South. This became known as the Great Migration.

The Great Migration took many people to cities. There, they shared a common past. They also shared an uncertain future. Together, they brought about a burst of Black culture. This became known as the Harlem Renaissance.

What was the Harlem Renaissance? It was a time when many types of artists helped shape American culture. There were writers, painters, and musicians. It also involved sculptors, photographers, and scholars. They were largely focused in the Harlem area of New York City.

The Harlem Renaissance took off around the end of World War I. It continued into the mid-1930s, but lost steam in 1929. That’s when the stock market crashed and the Great Depression began.

Many types of art thrived during the Harlem Renaissance. The most growth may have been in literature. Many writers and poets wrote works that helped define what it meant to be Black in America. 

Which writers were part of the Harlem Renaissance? Langston Hughes, Claude McKay, and Zora Neale Hurston are a few examples. W. E. B. Du Bois and Nella Larsen were also involved. Their writing about African American life grew cultural pride. There were many other big names of the Harlem Renaissance. Musician Billie Holiday, artist Aaron Douglas, and many more worked to further the rebirth of culture.

Without the Harlem Renaissance, literature and art would be much different today. It helped shape Black communities and American culture as a whole. It also set the stage for the 1960s Civil Rights Movement.

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