Negative Effects of the Harlem Renaissance

by Courtney Spratley

The Harlem Renaissance began in the 1920s, a time of rapid growth and change in the United States. New radical thoughts and ideas sparked a cultural revolution that sought to change the image of the African American from rural and uneducated to urban and cosmopolitan. Though the revolution produced abundant literary, artistic and musical creations, it also impacted African-American culture in several undesirable ways.

Self Hatred

Critics of the Harlem Renaissance view it as a movement fueled by self-hatred. It appears to some that the African Americans of the Harlem Renaissance attempted to escape the history and culture of their ethnicity by trying to create a new one that was more white or European in nature. Renaissance revolutionaries often copied white culture by adopting their style of dress, manners, etiquette and values.

Dependence on White Culture

Many critics have accused the literary and musical revolutionaries of the Harlem Renaissance of tailoring their work to appeal to white audiences. The intent of the Renaissance was to create more equality for African Americans at white publishing houses, but this came with the cost of the inability to express themselves despite what white audiences thought. Also, it was typical for only the African-American musicians that appealed to white audiences to have access to mainstream success.

Division Within the African-American Community

The movement for the creation of the image of the urban and cosmopolitan negro caused a separation amongst African Americans. Those who did not believe in the adoption of white customs, manners and etiquette separated themselves from those who did. African Americans of the Renaissance were often labeled as "disillusioned." African Americans who did not believe in the Renaissance were seen as inhibitors to the advancement of African-American culture.

Spread of Racism

Critics argue that the Harlem Renaissance helped to fuel racism against the rural and uneducated African Americans in the south. As African Americans mimicked white culture and tailored their musical, artistic and literary creations to favor white audiences, African Americans reinforced the idea that those who were not a part of the Renaissance were inferior.

About the Author

Courtney Spratley is a professional writer of instructional articles specializing in social, accounting, technology and government-related topics. She holds a bachelor's degree in government from the University of Texas at Austin and is now pursuing a Master of Public Administration from the University of Houston.

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