Harlem Renaissance: the Aid of the Black Intellectual Reconstruction Essay

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When choosing a topic I thought about the many lectures that were give in class. The one lecture that stuck with me was on identity and history. Dr. Johnson, an Introduction to Black Diaspora professor at Howard University, expressed the importance of knowing our history to know ourselves. This brought on a lecture about having the power to define and just how strong that power is. “The power to define is the power to control.” (Johnson) Society influences our definition of self. This assignment was used to explore the ways African Americans took back this power to define who they are. The Harlem Renaissance movement is the perfect example of how Blacks in America tried to put this power into their own hands. The Harlem Renaissance is one characterized by the inundation of African-American expression through art, writing, dance, theater and the liberal arts. These expressions played a role in African-American’s creating an identity for their selves in America. In creating this identity, many scholars of the time debated on the issues surrounding this era, such as the Harlem Renaissance being an aid in the black intellectual reconstruction. The following will take a look at the arguments that the Harlem Renaissance was used to change the image of blacks, the ideas of the “New Negro”, and Africa’s role in the Harlem Renaissance those who contributed in them. The word renaissance means rebirth, a time of change. This is exactly what was happening in Harlem, New York in 1918 around the end of World War I. New ideas and styles of writing, art, and music began to develop in the African-American community. It started as a movement to give blacks a chance at self-expression of these ideas, in the forms of fine arts, things that blacks were not considered to be apart of at the time. Writers at this time took it upon themselves to expose the realities of living as an

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