African American Influence and the Harlem Renaissance

From the end of World War I to the middle of the 1930’s, there was a time that can be referred to as the Harlem Renaissance. The Harlem Renaissance was an artistic explosion in Harlem in which African American influence flourished in visual arts and also in music, theater, poetry and photography (PBS). Harlem became a place where African American artists traveled in order to pursue their dreams. A few of these artists that left the South for Harlem are Langston Hughes, Romare Bearden and William Johnson.

The Weary Blues, 1923

Langston Hughes was a poet during the Harlem Renaissance. His poem The Weary Blues discusses his experience when listening to a Blue’s musician in Harlem. One could identify this poem as taking place in Harlem by the line “Down on Lenox Avenue,” a main road in the city. His interpretation of the music could be described as sorrowful or experiencing struggle, which would make sense because it was taking place during a time of heavy racism and discrimination. But throughout all of the hardships, Hughes makes it seem as if the Blue’s are keeping this musician alive and there is a certain inspiration behind that.


Out Chorus, 1979

Romare Bearden, 1911-1988, was a known painter during the Harlem Renaissance. He moved from South Carolina to New York in order to chase his artistic dreams. Bearden became a “founding member of the Harlem-based art group known as The Spiral, formed to discuss the responsibility of the African-American artist in the struggle for civil rights” (Wikipedia). His piece, Out Chorus exemplifies African American influence through the portrayal of a Jazz band and bright colors.


Booker T. Washington Legend, 1944

William H. Johnson was also an African American painter who moved from South Carolina to New York in 1918 as an aspiring artist. In New York, he was accepted into The National Academy of Design, where his painting skills thrived. Johnson was greatly inspired by the culture surrounding him and he “also scrutinized the assortment of sights, sounds, and people who populated Harlem’s African American community. Mesmerized by the stimulating life around him, he captured the gyrations of the contemporary dance craze” (Smithsonian Art Museum).

The Harlem Renaissance was an entire time where African American influence was the primary influence. It was not only an artistic movement, but also portrayed racial pride.

Works Cited

“Resources and Tours.” William H. Johnson: A Guide for Teachers / American Art. N.p., n.d. Web. 11 Nov. 2014.
“Romare Bearden.” Wikipedia. Wikimedia Foundation, 11 Oct. 2014. Web. 10 Nov. 2014.
“The Harlem Renaissance.” PBS. PBS, n.d. Web. 08 Nov. 2014.
“The Weary Blues” by Langston Hughes.” “The Weary Blues” by Langston Hughes. N.p., n.d. Web. 10 Nov. 2014.

One thought on “African American Influence and the Harlem Renaissance

  1. I studied the Harlem Renaissance in High School but I guess I forgot the beauty that it brought. I enjoyed learning about it all over again through your blog. I also enjoy how you described each piece it made the art come alive for me. I also like the fact that you chose to add a poem instead of just paintings. A lot of amazing poets wrote amazing pieces during this time and “Weary Blues” is one of my favorites.


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