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From The Harlem Renaissance to The Get Down

From The Harlem Renaissance to The Get Down
It’s a beautiful morning at The Get Down Cafe and as we sip our We Got The Jazz lattes, listen to tunes by Duke Ellington, read Their Eyes Were Watching God, or interact with any other piece of creative expression that exists within Camden — we remember the roots. 
It’s been about 100 years since the neighborhood in New York called Harlem changed social and artistic culture forever. The artists, performers, musicians, and writers of this time created the building blocks for their successors. 
The Harlem Renaissance started in the 1910’s, when multiple factors began pushing the African American population north during what we know as the Great Migration. Between Jim Crow Laws and Black Codes being implemented in the South, and increasing labor opportunities arising in the North, it was very common for black folks to move to Harlem and other locations in the North and Midwest. This influx of people to the Harlem neighborhood undoubtedly created a cultural masterpiece of a city, where writers, musicians, artists, and performers came to life. 
Aside from all of the creators that emerged from this era, the Harlem Renaissance placed a spotlight on the black experience that did not exist in the American public prior. We saw a large influx in political activism that led to a reclamation of identity both celebrating the black experience, while also acknowledging changes that needed to occur.
Zora Neale Huston was one of the authors who played a large role in the Harlem Renaissance. She wrote multiple books, produced films, and plays, but her most popular work is Their Eyes Were Watching God — which is now a staple read in many higher education institutions. 
Claude McKay was another flourishing writer of the Harlem Renaissance. He wrote poetry that shed light on his experience as a Jamaican American. He wrote over 300 poems, many of which centered on social and political concerns while also celebrating his culture. 
Bessie Smith was a jazz singer during the Harlem Renaissance that became known as Empress of Blues. Find some of her lovely music here
We all know the song What A Wonderful World, and this was just one of Louis Armstrong’s beautiful contributions to jazz music as a singer and trumpeter. 
As a painter and muralist, Aaron Douglas became known as one of the most influential visual artists of the Harlem Renaissance. His work addressed social issues through art, and also celebrated African culture through afro-centric imagery. 
Jacob Lawrence was one of the many artists during the Harlem Renaissance that reimagined visual art. He was a painter that referred to his style as “dynamic cubism”, combining previous painting styles into his own. 
Next time you frequent Camdentown Minneapolis or The Get Down, take a moment to celebrate the rich culture of the Harlem Renaissance and the longstanding impact it has had on all of us.