One of the most influential eras of American history happened between 1920 and 1930. This age was known as the Harlem Renaissance. During this time, black artists entered into a period of political and artistic brilliance. The era brought with it social and political upheaval that focused on Black Americans finding their place in the history of America. This truly was a time when racism and division were challenged. The Harlem Renaissance would usher in a newfound era of opportunity for Black Americans led by 7 incredible artists including
A mural painter who illustrated black American life. He founded the art department at Fisk University and taught there for 20 years. He is responsible for cultivating the concept of the Harlem Renaissance.
Lois Mailou Jones
A landscape painter who taught all around the world. Her paintings were eventually featured in Ebony magazine.
Best Known for his cubist paintings of the Migration Series at the age of 23. He is the Harlem Renaissance’s first mainstream artist.
Founder of Savage Studio Arts and Crafts. She was a sculptor whose sculpted bust named Gamin, still stands at the Smithsonian American Art Museum in Washington, D.C.
James Van Der Zee
A photographer who specialized in capturing the average African American middle-class families. His photography also was used to unofficially document the Harlem Renaissance by capturing important political figures at the time.
Switched from painting to sculpting figures, most notably, figures of black men. His works became popular with the press.
Created Utopia Children’s House, a settlement house providing after-school programs for the youth. He was an artist who became a mentor for Jacob Lawrence.
Each of these artists had a certain role to play. Whether it be to tell stories through paintings like Jacob Lawrence, mentoring influential people like Charles Alston, or documenting the entire era like James Van Der Zee, each person performed a critical role in shaping the Renaissance into becoming one of the most significant historical periods of American History. Today, we can look back on this period and recognize the influence in today’s art and music and truly appreciate what the Harlem Renaissance accomplished for America.