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Special Features Index  

 
Spotlight The Harlem Renaissance
 
  The Harlem Renaissance was an African-American literary and cultural movement that began after World War I and ended during the years of the Great Depression of the 1930s. The movement was influenced by the many black glbtq writers and artists who contributed to it.  
 
 
  African Americans who engage in same-sex sexual practices and/or who lead cross-gendered lives have always been a part of black and glbtq communities. Several were leading cultural figures during the Harlem Renaissance.  
 
 
  The African-American Gay Male Literary Tradition consists of a substantial body of texts and includes some of the most gifted writers of the twentieth century.  
 
 
  Most African-American Lesbian Literature is as concerned with racism as it is with sexuality, causing many writers to construct Afrocentric sexual identities that affirm the power of black women.  
 
 
  James Richmond Barthe James Richmond Barthé (1901-1989), a popular African-American sculptor associated with the Harlem Renaissance, used his art as a means of working out internal conflicts related to race and sexuality.  
 
 
  Ethel Waters Blues Music as it flourished in the 1920s was women's music. Although it grew out of African-American spirituals and a tradition of itinerant male singers in the rural South, female performers defined and popularized the genre. Prominent performers during the period included Gladys Bentley, Alberta Hunter, Ma Rainey, Bessie Smith, and Ethel Waters.  
 
 
  Countee Cullen Countee Cullen (1903-1946) was heralded as the poet laureate of the Harlem Renaissance. Though he wanted to be recognized as "a poet, not a Negro poet," he spent his life proving that a black poet could sing in a black voice.  
 
 
  Beauford Delaney Beauford Delaney (1901-1979) is a renowned American painter who arrived in New York at the end of the Harlem Renaissance. The pressures of being black and gay in a racist and homophobic society may have ultimately robbed him of his sanity.  
 
 
  Angelina Weld Grimke Angelina Weld Grimké (1880-1958) published plays and poems during the Harlem Renaissance, but stopped writing and fell into obscurity after the 1920s. Glbtq scholars who have recently rediscovered Grimk√©'s work have found that her inability to act on her sexual desires inspired her writing--and contributed to her ultimately abandoning it.  
 
 
  Langston Hughes Langston Hughes (1902-1967) left a long and varied literary legacy. Though he was closeted, his homosexuality was such an important influence on his literary imagination that many of his poems may be read as gay texts.  
 
 
  In the 1920s, Harlem was a flourishing enclave of Jazz and gay life. The Harlem Renaissance included, in addition to literary figures, musical performers at jazz clubs who incorporated homosexual slang and sexually explicit lyrics.  
 
 
  nella larsen Nella Larsen (1891-1964) was the first African American to receive a Guggenheim Fellowship. Constrained by the social conventions of her day, her novels address lesbianism covertly.  
 
 
  Alaine Locke As midwife to the Harlem Renaissance, Alain Locke (1885-1954) played a crucial role in the development of African-American literature; his homosexuality informed his plea for respect of sexual and cultural diversity.  
 
 
  By the 1920s new centers of gay life had developed in New York City: Greenwich Village, where sexual unconventionality mixed with artistic and bohemian styles, and Harlem, where blues singers, jazz musicians, and black writers and intellectuals accepted lesbianism, homosexuality, and other kinds of unconventional sexual behavior.  
 
 
  Carl Van Vechten Carl Van Vechten (1880-1964) was a novelist, critic, and photographer who earned a reputation as Harlem's "most enthusiastic and ubiquitous Nordic." His articles in Vanity Fair and The New York Times introduced the New Negro Movement and Harlem Renaissance writers to many whites.  
 
 
  A'Lelia Walker (1885-1931), the "joy goddess" of the Harlem Renaissance, was a hostess who especially valued the company of black glbtq artists and writers, which gave her gatherings a distinctly gay ambience.  
 
 
 

 
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