A new exhibit explores the gay role in the flowering of Harlem
FOR THE TWO DECADES between the world wars, Harlem was the epicenter of progressive black life in America, spurring a revolution in music, art, and fashion. The uptown New York City neighborhood embraced the notion of experimentation--both cultural and sexual.
While many of the rumored gay artists of the Harlem Renaissance remained oblique about their sexual orientation, icons like writer Langston Hughes (pictured)
and singers Bessie Smith and "Ma" Rainey alluded to same-sex affairs in their art. Their work as well as pieces from several other artists will be featured in an upcoming exhibit, "The Harlem Renaissance: As Gay as It Was Black," a tribute to the songs, literature, and art that demonstrate the gay influence on the era.
Shane Vogel, author of The Scene of Harlem Cabaret: Race, Sexuality, Performance, says the Harlem Renaissance allowed African-American artists a taste of freedom: "The goal of the renaissance was to further depictions of black life by black artists. which included defining themselves sexually through art, writing, and dance. Many artists explored those themes in their work very openly."
"The Harlem Renaissance: As Gay as It Was Black" was on display at the Broward Main Library in Fort Lauderdale, Florida in 2010 and then was displayed at Florida Atlantic University in Boca Raton starting in May 2010. A nationwide tour is planned. For more information and to see the display panels, visit Stonewall National Museum and Archives.
(2010). Rhapsody in Black. Advocate, (1036), 14. Retrieved from MAS Ultra - School Edition database.
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The Harlem Renaissance was an artistic, political, social and cultural movement during which African American intellectuals and artists came together to “claim their creativity,” to take control of not only the content of their creations but also the means by which that content was produced. Roughly ranging from the end of WWI through 1940 (the exact time period is debated), the movement bloomed from its Harlem roots and spread throughout artistic communities across the United States and into regions as diverse as the Caribbean islands and Western Europe.
Additional News Clippings about the 2010 Exhibit at the FAU Libraries (Boca Raton campus) can be found at the following links:
'As Gay as it was Black' exhibit re-examines the Harlem Renaissance 1:59 p.m. EDT, May 10, 2010