Some people have expressed worry that they don’t know much about the options for this tour: the Harlem Renaissance is not something that they are incredibly familiar with. To tell you the truth, we aren’t experts either.
However, we have taken some time to pull together what we feel is a rather comprehensive list of writers, philosophers, and artists, that we think would make this tour fun. Although we haven’t read most of these works, we’ve done research through Wikipedia and other websites, found quotes from readers on what they liked about each author’s works, and tried to cover a variety of territory. We have list for the beginning of the movement, the poets, the fiction, and other options for the tour.
Note that even though are lists are huge, they are not comprehensive: we’ve probably missed something. If we have, you should choose to read that author for this tour!
On a personal note, I want to add that, although I realize most people won’t read through these lists completely, I found it very exciting to compile. As I read about each author, I wanted to read about that author for the Circuit. Now I can’t decide for myself! If you don’t know where to begin, these lists will probably get you wanting to read a little of everything!
A special thanks to Michelle at Michelle’s Masterful Musings, Nicole from Linus’s Blanket, Teresa from Shelf Love, and Kay from Kay’s Bookshelf for their help in putting this information together! It was a lot of work.
W.E.B. Du Bois nonfiction, such as The Souls of Black Folk helped change the face of race relations in the early years of the century, paving the way for the Renaissance. James Weldon Johnson’s poetry became a “national anthem” for African-Americans, and his semi-autobiographical The Autobiography of an Ex-Coloured Man, was a landmark. Add Charles Chesnutt’s early novels and political leadership with the NAACP, some less well-known social activists and writers, and the 1925 anthology of African-American writing edited by Alain Locke, and the Harlem Renaissance was well underway.
The “flowering” of the Harlem Renaissance is often thought of in terms of the poetry it produced, from Langston Hughes to Claude McKay. Jean Toomer’s poetic novel Cane (1923) was also a milestone for African-American literature in the 1920s, and Countee Cullen and Arna Bontemps made their mark.
But the Harlem Renaissance created all types of writers. Although Zora Neale Hurston is probably the most recognized novelist to come out of Harlem, she began her writing career with folktale studies, and her novels reflect that. Jessie Redmon Fauset and Nella Larsen wrote novels focusing on middle class women. Wallace Thurman ’s The Blacker the Berry looks at discrimination among black people, and Walter White’s novel looks at the discrimination in the South.
Harlem Renaissance authors wrote in every genre. Randolph Fisher wrote a Harlem-based mystery novel. George Schuyler wrote dystopian science fiction. Arna Bontemps wrote historical fiction. Claude McKay’s novels captured the “gritty” side of life in Harlem, from alcohol and murder, and Richard Bruce Nugent was the first African-American to write about open homosexuals, focusing on life in Harlem in the 1920s.
Even with all those authors whose works you can read, you could still read something else, such as reading and writing about general information about the movement to studying about the visual artists and musical artists behind it.
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