Harlem Renaissance was an African American movement including, literature, visual art, and music. This movement took place primarily in Harlem, New York in the 20's. This movement was characterized by African American artists and writers exploring and advancing their unique culture. They realized that they didn't need to simply imitate European and White American writers.
Aline Lock (seen on the left) is often considered to be the father of the Harlem Renaissance Born on September 13, 1886, in Philadelphia, PA, Lock began his career as an educator. Little did he know that he would be remembered as the father of the Harlem Renaissance.
Locke described himself as a humanist. He advocated his philosophy, "Cultural Pluralism" (a term he coined) throughout his writing. This concept is one of the building blocks of the Harlem Renaissance.
He like other modernists didn't want to write like a Romanticist or Transcendentalist. What made him different from other modernists was that he wanted to write with the distinct voice of a black man. His concept of "Cultural Pluralism," essentially stated that each culture and personality was unique and should be respected independently. He also believed that the United States was a diverse country and that the cultures in it should be allowed to develop side by side instead of melting together or forcing one to assimilate. W.E.B. DuBois advocated this position in his 1903 book, "The Souls of Black Folk." This book aided in the development of the Harlem Renaissance because it was one of the first African American texts to gain national prominence. An interesting side effect of the cultural pluralist movement was a separation of the American literary identity from that of Europe.
Countee Cullen (one of Locke's protégé) a poet of contradicted Locke's idea of Cultural Relativism. He instead argued that he had just as much right to the styes of Anglo-American poetry. Langston Hughes opposed this idea and stated it clearly in his 1926 manifesto, "The Negro Artist and the Racial Mountain." He argued that that black poets should work to create a distinct “Negro” art, instead of submitting to the “urge within the race toward whiteness.”Hughes' position was characteristic of the writers of the Harlem Renaissance.
A distinct characteristic of poets - and other artists - from the Harlem Renaissance was that many were Queer or Bisexual. This list includes names like McKay, Cullen, Locke, Dunbar Nelson, Richard Bruce Nugent. Some also suspect that Hughes was Bisexual. Drag balls were reported in black newspapers, although sometimes disparagingly. Harlem also became a destination where whites went to seek sexual thrills. Although many of these writers were of varying sexualities, this theme rarely appeared in their writings and was discreetly referred to when at all mentioned.