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. It didn’t end racism. This was especially true in the South—there, Jim Crow laws denied Black Americans their rights. Racist groups brought about a great deal 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 event became known as the Great Migration.

During the Great Migration, many people moved to cities. There, they shared a common past and an uncertain future. Together, they brought about a burst of Black culture that we now call the Harlem Renaissance.

What was the Harlem Renaissance? It was a time when many Black artists helped shape American culture. There were writers, painters, and musicians. It also involved sculptors, photographers, and scholars. Many of these artists lived and worked in the Harlem area of New York City.

The Harlem Renaissance took off around the end of World War I. It lost steam in 1929 with the start of the Great Depression. However, most historians agree that the Harlem Renaissance continued into the mid-1930s.

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 Black life grew cultural pride. There were many other big names of the Harlem Renaissance. Musician Duke Ellington, 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. The event also set the stage for the 1960s Civil Rights Movement.

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