1920’s and the Harlem Renaissance


Vashon Broadnax Commented On:
   Linda A. Simmons
   Mishele Adams


It was the roaring 1920’s and many Americans faced a revolution of social, cultural and artistic movements during this period called the “Harlem Renaissance”. Wintz (2015) traditionally describes the Harlem Renaissance was viewed as a literary movement centered in Harlem and growing out of the black migration and the emergence of Harlem as the premier black metropolis in the United States. During the 1920s, many African Americans migrated to Harlem New York, to become enlighten with this movement of informal education. Reflecting on Merriam and Brockett’s explanation of informal education, this spontaneous, unstructured that occurred in the homes and daily lives of African American was a major source of adult learning.


During this period, many significant events related to adult education came to light. Renaissance was known for its intellectual and cultural life (Wintz, 2015). Poets such as Langston Hughes, James Weldon Johnson, Claude McKay and many others, were sough as literary icons during this period. Other highlights that shined in this era was scholarship and what constituted as exceptional literary work. The creation of several African American social sororities, fraternities and organization to the birth of African American culture. The basis of these organizations was to teach African American culture. The Renaissance shaped the way jazz was performed. Referencing the USHistory.org site, Harlem’s Cotton Club boasted the talents of Duke Ellington. Singers such as Bessie Smith and Billie Holiday popularized blues and jazz vocals. Jelly Roll Morton and Louis Armstrong drew huge audiences as white Americans as well as African Americans caught jazz fever.

With the large masses of African Americans migrating to the North it allowed many to prosper. The blooming of the black population in cities led to reactionary strategies by whites to disenfranchise and isolate blacks within racially segregated communities (Guy, 2005).

In an article by Johnson-Bailey (2006), she noted that then President Calvin Coolidge penned a correspondence that claimed Negro is at fault and that the race of Blacks are deficient and require instruction (p. 107).

Influential factors

In educating the African American, the Institute on Adult Education of Negroes was created which was sponsored by U.S. Office of Education with the cooperation of the American Association for Adult Education and the National Conference on Adult Education and the Negro, with the financial assistance of the Carnegie Corporation of New York (Johnson-Bailey, 2006). The purpose was to educate the one quarter of the three million illiterate African Americans

These main factors brought Renaissance leaders such as W.E.B. DuBois to create the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP), which had a high influence during the 1920’s.

In addition to the Harlem Renaissance, the country was experiencing a Progressive Movement in education. Progressive education championed an experiential philosophy; an education resulting more from the student than from the teacher (Schugurensky, 2012). From there the Carnegie Corporation began to show interest in adult education, and eventually saw various problems in adult education (Barlow, Frohbieter, & Graham, 2011).


From my reading about this period, I saw the rise of Black literacy focused on scholarship. The informal education of various arts, proved that African Americans in this period could have a larger impact more than just Harlem. The Renaissance sought out Black creativity and influenced the future of African American culture. Reflecting on this period, I believe it created a foundation for the civil rights movement. One of the many intriguing aspects of this era caused African Americans to become enlightened and find a need for more equal rights. With more conscious African Americans, I believe the Renaissance was a foundation for the Civil Rights movement.

Introduction Harlem Renaissance is a literary movement for African Americans.
Highlights W.E.B. DuBois – editor of The Crisis

Carnegie Corporation was founded

National Urban League was born

First Commercial Radio Broadcast Aired

Influential Factors This era influenced many aspects of African American cultural and intellectual life.
Implications Created a foundation for the Civil Rights Movement

Showed the struggles of African Americans in the US



Barlow, S., Frohbieter, T., & Graham, D. (2011, April 1). Adult education movement in america. Retrieved from Slideshare.net: http://www.slideshare.net/Wienerblut/adult-education-movement-in-america-1920-1930

Glassman, M., Erdem, G., & Bartholomew, M. (2012). Action Research and Its History as an Adult Education Movement for Social Change. Adult Education Quarterly.

Guy, T. C. (2005, March 16). Gangsta Rap and Adult Education. New DIrections or Adult and Continuing Education.

Johnson-Bailey, J. (2006, February). African Americans in Adult Education: The Harlem Renaissance Revisited. Adult Education Quarterly, 56(2), 102-118.

Merriam, S. B., & Brockett, R. G. (2007). The profession and practice of adult education: An introduction. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.

Schugurensky, D. (2012, May). History of Education: Selected Moments of the 20th Century. Retrieved from History of Education: http://schugurensky.faculty.asu.edu/moments/1920lintner.html

Shearad, V., Johnson-Bailey, J., Colin, S. A., Peterson, E., & Brookfield, S. D. (2010). The handbook of race and adult education. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.

USHistory.org. (n/a). The Harlem Renaissance. Retrieved from U.S. History Online Textbook: http://www.ushistory.org/us/46e.asp

Wintz, C. D. (2015, Feburary). The Harlem Renaissance: What Was It, and Why Does It Matter? Retrieved from Humanities Texas: http://www.humanitiestexas.org/news/articles/harlem-renaissance-what-was-it-and-why-does-it-matter


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s