New York in/and African American Art History

Authored by: Lesley E. Shipley

The Routledge Companion to African American Art History

Print publication date:  December  2019
Online publication date:  November  2019

Print ISBN: 9781138486553
eBook ISBN: 9781351045193
Adobe ISBN:


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During the First Great Migration (1910–1940), about 1.6 million African Americans relocated from the southern United States to urban centers in the north. 1 As a result, the African American population in Harlem grew from about 10% in the 1910s to nearly 70% in the 1930s, transforming this northern Manhattan neighborhood into a vital new space for African American public life. 2 Between 1919 and 1929, the period known as the Harlem Renaissance, New York became a beacon of creative experimentation in the visual, performing, and literary arts, as well as social activism. Leaders like W. E. B. Du Bois and Alain Locke harnessed the power of public art to disseminate their vision for racial consciousness and pride among African Americans. Black artists in New York at this time created art for the public sphere that would reverse racist representations of African Americans and celebrate their historic achievements. Art became an important component in the formation of “black counterpublic spaces” within the city, in public expositions, parades, and printed media. 3

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