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Harlem Renaissance

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The definition of Renaissance is the activity, spirit, or time of the great revival of art, literature, and learning. The Harlem Renaissance was an African-American cultural movement that focused on literature, music, theater, art, and politics. The Harlem Renaissance is important because it’s something that brought African Americans together as a whole. It allowed them to get the opportunities that people tried to strip them of. This was being human and normal. After the war the African American people began to migrate to Harlem and that’s when it all started. Harlem was the place the largest group of African Americans moved to during the African American Great Migration. Most African Americans came for work and a hope for a new life. Places such as The Apollo Theater and The Cotton Club, and Musicians, Writers and Actors were a part of the Harlem Renaissance. That’s what made the Harlem Renaissance. It was time for a cultural celebration.” African Americans had endured centuries of slavery and the struggle for abolition. The end of bondage had not brought the Promised Land many had envisioned.” “The Harlem Renaissance” ushistory, Independence Hall Association, 22 May 2014, http://www.ushistory.org/us/46e.asp , 2008-2014
A music theater that has history, which means it wasn’t an ordinary place. An extraordinary place called the Apollo Theater. The Apollo Theater is located in Harlem, New York on 125th Avenue between Adam Clayton Powell Jr. Boulevard and Frederick Douglas Boulevard. The Apollo Theater was designed by George Keister in the neo classical style. The original name for the Apollo Theater was The Burlesque Theater. The owners were Jules Hurtig and Harry Seaman. When the venue first opened it was a white’s only place. It became the Apollo in 1934. That’s when it became open to the African American community. In 1933 Sidney Cohen bought the theater, she was also the owner of the other theaters in the area. The Apollo Theater allowed people to display their talents. The Apollo Theater made it easier for African Americans to display their talents. On January 15 the Apollo became a part of the black community of Harlem. February 14, 1934 was the day jazz singer Adelaide Hall performed at the Apollo. That performance had “made” the Apollo’s reputation. The Apollo Theater had competition with other venues such as the Lafayette. In order to maintain a good reputation Sidney hired John Hammond to keep up with the competition. Sidney Cohen had later died and the Apollo went under the ownership of another. The performances continued. People like Duke Ellington, Chick Webb, Dizzy Gillespie, Count Basie, Bill Cosby, Richard Pryor, and Redd Foxx. Even musicians like Aretha Franklin, The Clark Sisters, and Ray Charles. Even though the goal of the Apollo was to give African Americans the opportunity to showcase their talents they also allowed white performers like Harry James and Buddy Rich. The Apollo’s slogan was “where stars are born and legends are made.” The Apollo started something called “Audition Night”. This allowed people to come and perform every Monday and showcase their talents. If the performer was bad then a siren went off and a man with a broom would sweep them off the stage. At the age of 17 Ella Fitzgerald made her singing debut at the Apollo Theater on November 21st. Ella Fitzgerald maintained a weekly audience to her performances. Her intentions were to dance but she was intimidated by the Edward Sisters, they were a local dance duo. In 1964 Jimi Hendrix won the amateur musician contest at the Apollo. During the Harlem Renaissance is when it became most important. Other performers whose careers started at the Apollo include Billie Holiday, Pearl Bailey, Sammy Davis Jr., James Brown, Diana Ross , The Supremes, Parliament-Funkadelic, Gladys Knight, Bobby Short, The Jackson 5, Patti LaBelle, Marvin Gaye, Luther Vandross, Stevie Wonder, Aretha Franklin, Ben E. King, Mariah Carey, The Isley Brothers, Lauryn Hill, Sarah Vaughan, Jazmine Sullivan, Ne-Yo, and Machine Gun Kelly. IT is said that 1.3 million people visit the Apollo each year. The Cotton Club was originally called the Club Deluxe in 1920. Owney Madden took it over and in 1922 changed its name to the Cotton Club. After race riots in 1935 Harlem was considered unsafe for whites the club was forced to close February 16, 1936. It reopened in September 1936 downtown on West 48th Street. Duke Ellington had also performed at the Cotton Club.

Musicians of the Harlem Renaissance were people like Billie Holiday, Chick Webb, and Louis Armstrong. Billie Holiday’s real name is Eleanora Fagan and she grew up in Baltimore. She was also known as Lady Day. Billie Holiday was born April 7, 1915 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. She got the name Billie Holiday from a movie star that she admired named Billie Dove. Her father last name was Holiday but she had her mother’s last name. Her father wasn’t around for very long. He left his family to pursue a career as a jazz guitarist. At the age of 19 she rejected and unwanted by her mom because she became pregnant. So she moved to Baltimore with her half-sister. Her mother wasn’t very supportive either. She had jobs where she always had to travel so she would just leave Billie with people. Billie Holiday was raped by a man named Wilbur Rich he was arrested when Billie’s mom found out. She was in protective custody for a year after testifying to the rape. In 1929 Billie went to move with her mother in Harlem. There they both became a prostitutes and were arrested and later released. After being released Billie Holliday dropped out of school later on started her singing career. She partnered up with a tenor sax player and they began playing a clubs for about 3 years. That’s when John Hammond discovered her and gave her a singing debut when she was 18. After that she also paired up with other musicians of the Harlem Renaissance like Chick Webb and Count Basie. 
She died July 17, 1959 in New York City, New York, buried at Saint Raymond’s Cemetery in Bronx County, NY. Louis Armstrong was born on August 4, 1901, in New Orleans. He grew up to be a well-known cornet player. Armstrong moved to New York City, and began playing his music with the Fletcher Henderson Orchestra at the Roseland Ballroom. He performed at the cotton club many times; he even met a dancer there that he made his wife. Louis Armstrong played music up until the day he died at 70 years old, on July 6, 1971.
A well-known writer/poet was Langston Hughes. James Mercer Langston Hughes was born in 1902 in Joplin, Missouri. He was the only son of James Nathaniel Hughes and Carrie Mercer Langston. His parents divorced when he was young and his father moved to Mexico. Because his mother traveled a lot to find work his grandmother raised him until he was 12. It was Hughes's grandmother who introduced him into writing. In 1914 he moved to Lincoln, Illinois, to live with his mother and her new husband. There he wrote his first poem when he was in eighth grade. A year later they moved Cleveland, Ohio. Even though Langston moved around a lot he did not let that mess up his education. His senior year at Central High School in Cleveland, Ohio, he was voted class poet and editor of the yearbook. After high school he traveled in Mexico, Europe, and Africa. By 1924 he had settled in Harlem, New York, and played an important part during the Harlem Renaissance. One of his favorite things to do was to sit in clubs and listen to the blues as he wrote his poetry. He wrote short stories, children’s books, translations, and anthologies. Langston Hughes died of cancer on May 22, 1967, in New York. Langston Hughes is one of the most well-known names of the Harlem Renaissance. The Harlem Renaissance was a great experience for African Americans. It allowed our people to show that we were worth more. We were capable of so much more than what was assumed. People didn’t expect African American to rise like they did. Everything happens for a reason and if the Harlem Renaissance wouldn’t have happened the African American people would not have risen like they did. It gave our people opportunity to be something and do something. It was the light of some African Americans darkness. It gave them a way out and reason to believe. My paper was highlights of the Harlem Renaissance. Billie Holiday was raped and didn’t have the proper care a mother should have provided but she became something. Langston Hughes came from a poor family but he got an education and used his talent as his way out. The Apollo and the Cotton club were places that only white people would attend and it turned into a place of opportunity for African American people.

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