Thursday, December 12, 2013


Duke Ellington. Zora Neale Hurston. Ralph Ellison. The names jump out and remind us they were part of the Harlem Renaissance, a time when African American culture blossomed in New York.  It was the teens, 1920’s and early 1930’s. Many African Americans had migrated from the South and Harlem, which had been a Black neighborhood since the turn of the century, was developing as a center of culture. The desire of Harlem residents to express themselves artistically was ripe. Great writers, artists and musicians blossomed during this era, which also was marked by the search for racial justice and freedom. 
A new book, named by The New York Times as one of the best books of 2013, is Miss Anne in Harlem: The White Women of the Harlem Renaissance.  Miss Anne was the collective name used for the Caucasian women who not only encouraged and helped finance these artists, but who also identified with Black culture and progressive politics. Among those aided by the Miss Annes was Langston Hughes.  Miss Anne in Harlem is a thought-provoking book and includes biographies of the individuals mentioned.

The library has several other books on the Harlem Renaissance. One very unique book is On the Shoulders of Giants: My Journey Through the Harlem Renaissance by basketball great and author Kareem Abdul Jabbar.  He shares Harlem history and introduces readers to the people who influenced his life.  Highlighted are not just the men and women who made cultural contributions, but also to the athletes and business people of the era.

A Beautiful Pageant:  African American Theater, Drama and Performance in the Harlem Renaissance 1910-1927 by David Krasner also includes sports as part of the culture and  names lesser known singers and dancers.  Library users looking for a good overview of the period might want to read Encyclopedia of the Harlem Renaissance, which is a terrific compendium of the history, geography and personalities identified with that time.

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