Harlem Renaissance

harlemcottonclub

I stumbled upon a great book while browsing at the library: The Power of Pride – Stylemakers and Rulebreakers of the Harlem Renaissance by Carole Marks and Diana Edkins.  The book outlines the lives of seventeen men and women who characterize what came to be known as the Harlem Renaissance in the very early years of the 1920’s.  I must admit, I was drawn to the book initially because of its eye-popping cover featuring Josephine Baker in a stunning pose.  PridecoverInside, the book outlines the lives of other Renaissance icons, to include: Walter White, Zora Neale Hurston, A’Lelia Walker, James Weldon Johnson, Ethel Waters, Louis Armstrong, Bessie Smith, Alberta Hunter, Jessie Fauset, Nella Larsen, Florence Mills, Duke Ellingnton, Bill “Bojangles” Robinson, Carl Van Vechten, Langston Hughes, and Dorothy West.  In the Introduction, the authors write about why they chose these individuals specifically: not only for the fact that they were some of the most prominent men and women of this Renaissance–irreverent, racy, painfully honest, and risk-takers in dangerous times–but also for another curious (to me) reason.  According to the author, they were all united by three traits or “obsessions”: a life-long passion for learning, a fascination with the theme of “passing,” and a fixation with degrees of color.  Their obsession and sometimes personal battles with their color threatened their authenticity and self image, but in the end, they were victorious, and emerged with a sense of pride.  The backgrounds and stories of each are quite varied, but also united, I observed, by movement and leaving home at an early age.  The book is divided into chapters which reflect this movement: the waves that emigrated from the south into Halem, Chicago, and Washington DC.  The great migration which spawned this Renaissance is captured in a recent book, which has enjoyed great acclaim: The Warmth of Other Suns, by Isabel Wilkerson.  I intend to put that one on my reading list.  In the meantime, I can’t think of a better way to honor Black History Month than to pick up a copy of either of these works.

 

Update: The Howard County Public Library in Maryland is hosting Isabel Wilkerson to talk about her work on 2 May 2013.  See information below:

Notable Author Events
EDWARD P. JONES
Edward P. Jones
In conversation with Ron Charles
 
Pulitzer Prize winner and New York Times bestselling author Edward P. Jones discusses his body of work with Ron Charles, fiction editor of The Washington Post.
In addition to the Pulitzer Prize for fiction, Jones was awarded the National Book Critics Circle award, the International IMPAC Dublin Literary Award, and the Lannan Literary Award for The Known World. His first collection of stories, Lost in the City, won the PEN/Hemingway Award and was short listed for the National Book Award. His second collection, All Aunt Hagar’s Children , was a finalist for the Pen/Faulkner Award. He also received a MacArthur Fellowship in 2004. Books available for purchase and signing.
HCLS EAST COLUMBIA BRANCH, 50+ CENTER (410.313.7700)
Tuesday, Mar 19
7 – 8:30 pm
Presented in partnership with HoCoPoLitSo. Sponsored by Friends of Howard County Library.
Save the date:
Isabel WilkersonISABEL WILKERSON
In conversation with Korva Coleman
 
Pulitzer-prize winning journalist and New York Times bestselling author Isabel Wilkerson presents the award-winning The Warmth Of Other Suns: The Epic Story of America’s Great Migration . The story tells of the decades-long migration of six million black citizens who fled the South for northern and western cities between 1915 and 1970 in search of a better life. NPR’s Korva Coleman joins Isabel Wilkerson for Q&A, followed by a reception.
HCLS MILLER BRANCH (410.313.1950)
Thursday, May 2
7 – 9 pm
Presented in partnership with HoCoPoLitSo. Sponsored by Friends of Howard County Library and Phyllis and James Madachy.
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