Harlem Renaissance by Nathan Huggins

Critical review of work on cultural creations of black Amer. in Harlem in 1920s.

The Harlem Renaissance has become a well-known episode in American cultural history, as the time and place of the first great public flowering of black American art and literature. Yet, as Nathan Huggins suggests in his 1971 book of the same name, it is much more the idea of a Harlem Renaissance than its actual productions that has proved to be durable. Of the cultural figures associated with it, perhaps only poet Langston Hughes is still well-remembered, and his work still presented to a wide public. In contrast, Harlem Renaissance novels such as Claude McKay’s Home to Harlem are more likely to be read today as cultural artifacts than as works of literature in their own right.

This state of affairs is all the more striking when we compare the literary and artistic productions of the Harlem…