Creating Valley Animal Portraits
The Harlem Renaissance was a powerful cultural and artistic movement that lasted from the end of World War I to the mid-1930s. Its origins lie in the Great Migration (1916-1970) during which millions of African Americans migrated from the South to the North to flee economic exploitation and harsh segregationist laws.
The more populous urban centers to the North not only offered better prospects for employment, education, and housing, but also freedom of expression through the arts. Harlem would serve as the symbolic capital of this cultural awakening, perhaps best known for its literary and performing arts.
Through their artistic energy, experimentation, and innovation, writers of this period created the most influential movement in African American literary history.
This class will survey some of the era's most important literary figures and their landmark achievements, including Zora Neale Hurston, Langston Hughes, Nella Larsen, Wallace Thurman, Alain Locke, James Weldon Johnson, and Countee Cullen.
We will look at the influence of these writers, how their writings examined and celebrated black life and experience, and how they helped reclaim black identity and pride amid widespread discrimination. Together we will discuss our understanding of their works and reflect on the social circumstances that motivated their art.
We will also explore the lasting legacy of the Harlem Renaissance, which laid critical groundwork for the civil rights and Black Arts movements of the 1960s and 1970s and deeply influenced the generations of African American writers that followed.
Students will be provided digital scans of selected poetry and prose as recommended reading between class sessions.
Vanessa Rouillon is an Assistant Professor of Writing and Rhetoric at JMU. She holds a Ph.D. in English from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, IL; an MA degree in Teaching English as a Second Language (Illinois); and an MA in Economics (Georgetown University). Her research examines African American citizenship efforts during the first half of the twentieth century. She is currently writing the biography of an African American man, Albert R. Lee, who worked at the University of Illinois, President's Office, and became the unofficial, but first dean of Black students.
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