The Harlem Renaissance And The Civil Rights Movement

2493 words - 10 pages

The decade after World War I and the postwar depression were hard times. Unemployment was up, spirits were down, and emotions needed lifting. Americans needed to have a good time. Still, entertainers were losing their jobs, and a gaping hole was left in the public's source of cheer. The Harlem Renaissance was the time that fixed it. African-American music gained popularity from the time when it was enjoyed free on the street through the time of the dance halls with black bands that were paid to play. African-American literature and poetry also gained a piece of the spotlight, as well as the black philosophers who were often as educated as whites. As the popularity and acceptance of black culture grew, changes started to occur.

The music, literature, and intellectuals resulting from the Harlem Renaissance helped to show whites that blacks could create art, achieve professionalism, and be as cultured as whites, which resulted in the change of some stereotypical views of whites, which in turn let the black equality movement advance with less resistance. The accelerated growth of music, literature, and intellectual achievement brought to attention that blacks could achieve as much as whites, and provided many examples. A major part of the Harlem Renaissance was the music, specifically jazz.

The music of the Harlem Renaissance was enjoyed by the young white population in the speakeasies and dance halls, which, with the radio, spread the popularity of jazz and promoted imitation by white bands, and led to the merging of black and white music styles. The Harlem Renaissance was lucky enough to start about the time of prohibition. Illegal bars, called speakeasies, needed entertainment to accompany the alcohol, and music was a good candidate. The speakeasies contributed greatly to the growth of jazz. Not only did they promote it, but they encouraged different styles of jazz. The large speakeasies were magnets to the crowds. They hired well known, veteran bands such as The Duke's Serenaders to play and attract customers. After a really good band had played, the next day word would get around that a great band had played the night before, and many more would come to see it as word got around (Jazz video). By these means, jazz spread like wildfire. Still, not only the large speakeasies helped, but also the small. Smaller speakeasies acted as stepping stones, and tended to hire cheaper, less known bands, which sometimes had different styles (Hardy 108). This gave the small bands confidence and a way to promote their new styles, so more people would find a type of jazz that they liked. Not only did the different delivery methods promote jazz, but the speakeasies helped integrate crowds. The alcohol in speakeasies loosened people up to join crowds that were not segregated, which led to greater racial tolerance and more widespread popularity of jazz (Jazz video). Later on, the speakeasies even started to hire integrated bands...

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