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Racial Dynamics in the Harlem Renaissance: A Detailed Study

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Written by
Dr. Simon Robbins
  • Icon Calendar 18 May 2024
  • Icon Page 706 words
  • Icon Clock 4 min read
English (United States)
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The history of African Americans has been engulfed in racial discrimination for centuries. Characterized by downgrading, hatred, oppression, and trauma, movements and periods of incensed resilience against the suffering have occurred. Although discussions have focused on psychological and emotional trauma, the influence of literature in shaping the racial perspective faced by African Americans has not been detailed. However, during the Harlem Renaissance, the rise of resilience culture, playwrights, and poetic documents reshaped the representation of adversity into a positive adoption for racially marginalized African Americans. Racial discrimination during the Harlem Renaissance was represented in documents through folk traditions, the rise of jazz and music, poetry, and playwright.

Folk Traditions

The rise of folk traditions through literal works inspired African Americans to overcome racial disparities. In particular, the stories about the experience of African enslaved people and the suffering faced during the botched American dream inspired resilience during a period when unity was needed. With the help of story books, different folk traditions were passed down to a generation that fought to gain its position in a racially charged community (Alonso & Del Rio 2019, p. 92). The widespread message shared through the stories had the potential to reveal a world that would ensure equality. From a historical perspective, allowing a generation to suffer trauma due to racial discrimination was reduced due to the celebrated history that people could share (Alonso & Del Rio 2019, p. 95). In this case, the documents held knowledge and history African Americans could use to discover their identity. Hence, folk traditions during the Harlem Renaissance were significant in inspiring African Americans.

Racial Dynamics in the Harlem Renaissance: A Detailed Study

Rise of Jazz and Music

The Harlem Renaissance gave rise to jazz and music as mediums that oppressed African Americans and could portray racial discrimination. Creating messages of joy, sorrow, and hope through music reached a large audience outside Harlem. Sharing inspiration through stories about suffering, recovery, and rebuilding careers in America helped African Americans to fight against racial strife (Sakuma 2022, p. 27). During moments when people wanted to stay relevant in society, it was through music that Africans could relate to due to history. Sakuma (2022) acknowledges that lyrics shared through Jazz music were a crucial medium since it was a musical form many Africans understood (p. 30). Through this component, documenting music experiences during the Renaissance helped many people to recover. Therefore, the influence of music during racial discrimination could not be ignored through the documented literature.

Poetry and Playwrights

The potential of communicating a message against racial discrimination was made possible through playwrights and poetry. During moments of entertainment and social gathering, poets shared inspired history against racism and offered help to oppressed African Americans. According to Schultz (2021), acting as a form of showing African Americans their potential allowed many creators to build resilience and demand acknowledgment in society (p. 55). The struggle to establish African dissent against racism during the Harlem Renaissance helped communities to rely on each other. As a result, the use of poetry and playwrights through documents encouraged African Americans to embrace the struggle.


The Harlem Renaissance was a period that helped African Americans to learn about racial discrimination and the many aspects of the culture that they could use to change the narrative. In a period where African Americans were censored, folk traditions, poetry, playwright, and jazz music gave freedom to an oppressed community. The Harlem Renaissance allowed African Americans to push back the racial narrative since they realized they had to gain hope. Hence, realizing the importance of documents during the Harlem Renaissance proves that racial discrimination inspired African Americans to fight for their societal position.

Reference List

Alonso, AF & Del Rio, AMB 2019, ‘Resilience as a form of contestation in Langston Hughes’ early poetry,’ Miscelánea: A Journal of English and American Studies, vol. 60, pp. 91-106, viewed 14 July 2023, DOI: 10.26754/ojs_misc/mj.20196289.

Sakuma, Y 2022, ‘African American migration narratives of the Harlem Renaissance: Jazz as a symbol of racial uplift, “low-down” migrants, and black feminism,’ The Japanese Journal of American Studies, no. 33, pp. 25-44. <https://www.jaas.gr.jp/Yuri%20SAKUMA%20_25.pdf> [14 July 2023].

Schultz, AE 2021, ‘Racial consciousness, uplift, and justice in Harlem Renaissance poetry,’ UReCA: The NCHC Journal of Undergraduate Research & Creative Activity, vol. 87, pp. 53-72. Available from: <https://digitalcommons.unl.edu/ureca/87> [14 July 2023].

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