Harlem once glittered as one of the world's most vivid entertainment centers during the 1920s and 1930s. Nightlife revolved around The Cotton Club, Smalls Paradise, and the Savoy Ballroom, featuring floor shows headlining glamorous African American women. African American artists during the Harlem Renaissance were social activists, making a significant contribution to black culture and aesthetics. Creating the notions of Black Identity, Black Consciousness, and Black Pride sustained these artists as activists in the face of adversity, and placed "The New Negro" on the global artistic scene. Dr. Alain Locke wrote the manifesto for "The New Negro" movement and W.E.B. DuBois led the African American artists to their creative promised land, Harlem. From the world of literature, there was Jessie Fauset and James Weldon Johnson; from dance and music, there was Katherine Dunham and Marian Anderson; from theatre and film, there was Paul Robeson and Oscar Micheaux. This book engages the philosophical discourse of Kenneth Burke and examines these artists as activists, and their works as symbols of social protest.
Gregory Anthony Tillman, Ph.D., is an educational consultant at Ebony Cultural Arts.