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Eng 102 - The Argumentative Essay: Harlem Renaissance

Argumentative Paper

Harlem Renaissance

Issues and Controversies in American History is an excellent source for information on the Harlem Renaissance

Harlem Renaissance
The Blossoming of African American Culture in the 1920s
This database provides the Historical/Cultural Events' Background, The Issues' Case For and Case Against, Timelines and Primary Source documents.  Related Websites are also included.

The Issue

Schomburg Center/New York Public Library

The issue: Should Harlem Renaissance writers and artists primarily seek to integrate with mainstream culture and advance the political goals of the civil rights establishment through their works? Or should Renaissance artists be free to express authentic and distinctly African American themes?

  • Arguments for cultural integration: In order to counter more than a century of racist stereotypes of blacks in American pop culture, Renaissance artists have an obligation to convey "respectable" images of African Americans to white society. In other words, art should be used as a political means, not for its own sake. Once black culture is accepted and integrated into mainstream culture, then political, social and economic equality will follow. Furthermore, the whole notion of "black art" is stereotypical in its own right; artists should express a wide array of themes and subject matter that aims to transcend racial identity.
  • Arguments against cultural integration: Countering racist portrayals in popular culture is crucial to achieving equality for African Americans, but not at the cost of sacrificing authentic and realistic forms of black artistry. A Renaissance artist should capture the unique voice of the black masses, not the whitewashed, "proper" portrayals that cater to the elite tastes of the black bourgeoisie and white society. The melting pot of cultural integration should be rejected in favor of the mosaic of cultural harmony, in which many cultures coexist apart from one another. Only when African Americans are accepted and respected for their own unique culture can genuine equality follow.


Second Resource:

The Gale In Context: U.S. History database provides access to Academic Journals, Magazines, Primary Sources, Reference Books, and Biographies related to the Harlem Renaissance

Harlem Renaissance


The Harlem Renaissance (c. 1918- c. 1937) was an important period in the development of African American culture. During this era, a group of influential figures in the creative arts helped to turn the New York City neighborhood of Harlem into a major center of African American music, literature, politics, and culture. It was less a movement than an attempt by artists to support each other in a cultural environment during a period in American history when there was not broad support for African American creative expression.

Also called the “New Negro Movement,” the Harlem Renaissance was merely the most famous of several urban clusters of African American expression. Cities such as Chicago, Kansas City, Memphis, and Cleveland were also...

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MLA Citations are provided for all featured articles and associated sources.

"Harlem Renaissance." Gale U.S. History Online Collection, Gale, 2020. Gale In Context: U.S. History, Accessed 9 Apr. 2020.

Third Resource 

The EBSCO ebook collection provides access to dozens of books dedicated to the Harlem Renaissance.

Use the Table of Contents to identify specific aspects of the Harlem Renaissance. 

Book Jacket


By: Huggins, Nathan Irvin. Edition: Updated ed. New York : Oxford University Press. 2007. eBook.

Subjects: SOCIAL SCIENCE / Ethnic Studies / American / African American Studies; American literature--African American authors--History and criticism; African American arts--New York (State)--New York--20th century; African American arts--20th century; African Americans--Intellectual life--20th century; Harlem Renaissance; African Americans--New York (State)--New York--Intellectual life--20th century

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Huggins, Nathan Irvin. Harlem Renaissance. Vol. Updated ed, Oxford University Press, 2007. EBSCOhost,