The Harlem Renaissance Essay

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After WW1 African Americans migrated to the north to find work in factories. This concentration of blacks led to a boom in culture, that produced many positives contributions to the arts and politics. African Americans spoke up for themselves against crimes and for authentic art that “must embrace the whole African American and not merely mimic white standards, styles, and expectations” says jJanehHallauthor of “the Harlem renaissance a cultural rebirth”. This time was when writers, painters, music and other forms of expression were set free and multiplied. many works of art were created in this short amount of time.

The Harlem Renaissance was the revival of various types of art and involved many peoples. Thinking about black culture the first thing that comes to mind is the sound of music. Music that tells a story and cannot always be recreated; mostly blues, jazz, and swing to name a few. These types of music were central to the Harlem renaissance soundscape. Ruth A Banes writer of ‘Relentlessly writing the weary song: Blues legacies in literature’ says that “Blues and jazz continue to express ‘the souls of black folk’ as the African-American community confronts deliberate exclusion and insists upon liberation, rejecting and transcending racism.” Music is a form of expression that can be understood across the board. Bane supports this by saying, “The music not only demands to be heard; it has gained the attention of blacks and whites alike, not only in the United States, but across the world.” Some well know musicians that came out of Harlem are Louis Armstrong and Billie Holiday. Louis Armstrong was most known for his trumpet playing and later in life for his singing, but his life wasn’t always about fame. He was born around august 1901. His father left while he was little and his mother worked as a domestic and sometimes as a prostitute to support the family. Without his mother around Armstrong also worked to support the family.

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Armstrong grew up in a poor New Orleans neighborhood and was surrounded by music. He quickly took liking to jazz but could not pursue his interest due to lack of money. Armstrong continued to work and bought his first cornet with the money he saved. He taught himself how to play and performed a few times until he was arrested for shooting a gun and was sent to reformed school. Armstrong flourished as a musician during this time and when he was released decided to follow his interest in having a career in music. He continued to work and perform and eventually caught the attention of New Orleans best cornet player. This attention led to Armstrong’s mentorship with Joseph “king” Oliver. Over the course of Armstrong’s life, he married many women and travelled frequently. In 1932 his fame hit a wall with the ending of the Harlem renaissance, his music had fallen out of style and was considered a ccliche. Out of character for Armstrong but Frustrated with united states race relations he criticized the government for not handling the integration of schools better. Armstrong died of complications of a heart attack but is still well known for his musical career and contribution to the Harlem renaissance.

Another well known singer was Billie Holiday or “Lady Day”. She was born in 1915 not too long before the full swing of the Harlem renaissance. Like louis Armstrong she grew up poor without a father but unlike her male counterpart she found drugs along with fame and continued to struggle addiction her whole life. Even though she was extremely talented, her life off the stage is what most people focused on. Her missing father was Clarence Holiday, a musician that she idolized and the main reason behind her singing career. Holiday suffered a lot of abuse as a child. At twelve she worked at a brothel as a prostitute and a singer for tips. She styled her singing after louis Armstrong and Bessie smith. At thirteen she moved to New York and started singing in Harlem clubs where a music producer in 1933 heard her and signed her with Columbia records. Holiday lived her life “cursing, drinking, brawling, pursuing partners of both sexes, a victimizer almost as often as she was a victim,” says Geoffrey Ward author of “Billie Holiday.” In 1940 she also began shooting heroin which cut her singing career short.

Holiday had many fans, but most were more interested in her life than her ability to sing. After her death age forty, her friends and associates perpetuated the idea that her singing was only an accident, caused by the pain she experienced, instead of the musical talent that she held.

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