Voices of the Harlem Renaissance Lesson 2

Lesson 2 Study Notes

Now, look at the Harlem Renaissance as it relates, or the voices of the Harlem Renaissance as it relates to sports. You have perhaps never heard of Fritz Hollett, but he was the first black man to play in the National Football League starting in 1920. It would take professional sports another 27 years before Jackie Robinson would cross the color line in baseball. And even the crossing of the color line in baseball

by Jackie Robinson in 1947, that was done after the Harlem Renaissance. And Jackie Robinson is not considered a member of the Harlem Renaissance. His advent and his appearance in Major League Baseball takes place just after the close of the Harlem Renaissance. It certainly had been anticipated by the Harlem Renaissance,

but it would not take place until after the Harlem Renaissance. Chris Pollard here was active actually during the Harlem Renaissance. And of course, we can combine the names of, we can combine the additional names of Jack Johnson, and Joe Louis, and Jesse Owens, 1936, winning four gold medals at the Olympics in Munich, Germany.

These would have been the actual athletes that operated and functioned during the Harlem Renaissance. So, the iconic figure that I want you to be familiar with as it relates to the National Football League would be Fritz Pollard. But you know and understand that Joe Louis was active during this time. Jesse Owens was active during this time. And then there was also this leftover presence of Jack Johnson. Now, Jack Johnson was alienated by America

because of his supposed arrogance and brutish behavior. And so there is a contrast. One of these days, I'm going to take time to actually contrastthe Jack Johnson with the Joe Lewis and how submissive Joe Louis appeared to be because of how outrageous whites had thought Jack Johnson to be. Now, remember, this entire time period, I keep coming back to this because it repeats

itself time and time again. Remember, this era, this 20 to 25-year era, was dedicated to the task of redefining and reassessing who black people were. And there was this campaign to get away from the stereotypes that had been thrust upon us as a result of the Civil War, Reconstruction, black codes, segregation, and Jim Crow in this country. That's why all of these individuals find voices that we ought to hear and listen to because these voices were committed and dedicated to changing the image of people who look like you and I.

Let's move to the very comfortable and perhaps very well-known area of literature. Now standouts in this category include the names of Zora Neale Hurston, Calvin Cullen, Paul Lawrence, Dunbar, Claude McGee, and so many others. I have, however, chosen to concentrate and focus in this presentation, and to bring to your attention and to have you to recall and remember and record, Lexton Hughes. He was a leader of the Renaissance era. And the reason I have chosen him is because his approach

to writing was not only radical, but it was revolutionary at the time. Much of the rap, of the rap artistry that you hear today can trace its origin and its roots and, watch this, its impropositional character to a type of literature, a type of poetic presentation that was invented by Langston Hughes called jazzy poetry. Please put that down. Jazzy poetry. Up until that time, poetry was considered very deliberate, very manual, but it was Langston Hughes who took what was going on in the music world, the improvisational style and approach that had become active and popular in the music world, and bring it to literature, bring it to poetry,

so that poetry was not always well thought out, anticipated lyrics that the poet had thought of and had written down prior to presentation. But he invented this style of the jazzy poet or the jazzy poetry, which kind of came off the top of a head. It was improvisational. It was spontaneous.

It was extemporaneous. It was a combination of head and heart, and that became a main thrust of literature during this particular period of time. And so that actually created the foundation for what we would see later on and even today as the rap industry, because the rap industry actually borrows very heavily upon the historical foundation and basics of jazzy poetry. It is for that reason that I certainly want you to know the name of Langston Hughes.

From literature, we move next door to entertainment. I've already suggested to you that jazzy poetry that was a product of Langston Hughes was borrowed from the music industry or the entertainment industry. Ma Rainey, Bessie Smith, Count Basie, Cab Calloway, Josephine Baker, and the list goes on. These are incredible musicians and entertainers who operated between 1920 and 1945,

redefined what music was produced by and produced for the new Negro community. Born in Washington, D.C., Ellington was based in New York during the Harlem Renaissance, appearing at the infamous Cotton Club. He popularized the three-minute song recorded on the 78, ain't sure, 78 RPM,

revolutions per minute, style record. Again, his approach to music was improvisational, it was innovative, it was imaginative, and again, it sought to operate outside the stereotypical norms of music that had existed up until that time. Up until that time, you had spirituals, you had field ditties, you had the appearance of the blues, you had a black style of country music. the orchestral sound of a Duke Ellington or a Cab Calloway broke outside these stereotypical images, and it redefined who the New Negro was. So no longer did the New Negro just have to sing blues or just have to play blues or just

have to sing spirituals or fieldies or work songs, there was a whole new genre of music that was now being made available. Why? Because the Harlem Renaissance impact and influence on music resulted in a totally different kind of music that would be produced and performed again by the new Negro. And of course, Duke Ellington, pictured here, represents that style, represents that genre.

We get swing, we get jazz, we would later by the end of this era get what was called race songs that would later be recognized as rock and roll. And of course, that would lay the foundation for soul music in the 60s and the 70s and then rap in the 80s and then the And of course, that would lay the foundation for soul music in the 60s and the 70s and then rap in the 80s and then the neo-soul movement of the 90s and beyond.
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