How Did The Harlem Renaissance Affect The Civil Rights Movement?

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To a certain extent, Harlem authors, artists and musicians of the Harlem Renaissance contributed in shaping the later 1960s civil rights movement. For instance, the artists of the Harlem Renaissance created works that would change the thoughts of Americans and inspire artists and later artists to use art to protest racism. Moreover, the Harlem Renaissance helped in changing political mindsets, which made the policy reforms in the 1960s easier to execute for the civil rights movement. However, the critics of the Harlem Renaissance have claimed that artists turned to mimicking white, middle class culture, in contrast to the attitude of the civil rights movement where African Americans focused on forging their own unique identity. Furthermore, …show more content…

The Harlem Renaissance was a “outpouring of writing, music, and social criticism” (Baker, 1987) aimed at destroying the ever-present racism of the 1920s. Langston Hughes, an artist of the Harlem Renaissance, was a big contributor to change, inspiring those of his own time and later on to stand up for African American rights. Penning the 1926 manifesto The Negro Artist and the Racial Mountain, Hughes encapsulated the thoughts of Harlem, and urged African Americans to be proud of their own culture, “without fear or shame” (Hughes in Bernard, 2011). As Hughes’ works were well published, African Americans, not just from Harlem, started to follow in his footsteps and create art that celebrated their skin colour. Professor Bercovitch argues that The Negro Artist and the Racial Mountain “embod[ies] the voice of the community”, attributing his popularity during the Harlem Renaissance to this communal voice that speaks for those who cannot (Bercovitch, 2003). In addition, in the 1960s, Hughes befriended the popular singer Nina Simone, encouraging her to use her music to further the civil rights movement. Hughes was an inspiration to Simone, who was already an established voice in popular culture and the civil rights movement. Hughes even wrote The Backlash Blues for Simone to perform as a protest song. Carrying such powerful lines as “the world is big / big and bright and round / and it's full of folks like me” (Simone, 1967), Backlash Blues became a popular song in the civil rights movement, allowing African Americans to express their proudness and protest racism in a more accessible way. Freedom songs such as Backlash Blues were and are still so significant to African Americans as they “sustain as well as … publicise the struggle[s]” they face (Stefani, 2015). Furthermore,

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