It’s the turn of the twentieth century, and the first generation of black men & women who have been born free, have all reached maturity. However, even if the law states they were free, social elements that despised their existence still lingered, so they travelled to places where they wouldn’t be persecuted as such. This led an exodus of black men and women all to New York, where they congregated into a neighborhood named Harlem. And from there, desires and hope merged, and the Harlem Renaissance began.
Now, there is only one thing that doesn’t change throughout life, and it’s the fact that we change.
Through every moment, memory, and connection in our lives, we change. We try to find aspects of ourselves, the community, and our society to alter and tinker with until we become something new and different.
But why do we do something new? Isn’t what we have already good enough?
We do all these things because of a deep rooted belief that we can become something greater. A better version of an environment or self. They all are in the pursuit of what we believe to be the best it can be.
The ideal of an idea.
Ideals were the life blood for the Harlem Renaissance, where they flowed through every man and women, whose dreams and hopes clashed with the social order to create change .
Within this site, I shall explain how ideals were the pivotal role in the development of the culture that defines Harlem to this day.
To understand the ‘ideal’ that they encapsulated, it must be first defined. Blog post #2 (The Real Vs. The Ideal), explores in-depth what idealism is and how it clashes and intermingles with it’s counterpart, pure realism. To borrow from the second blog’s understanding, and ideal is: the understanding of an ideal is varied and verbose, as each person holds their ideals differently.
So to define an ideal: it’s the most excellent form of a concept.
There have been many disparagements about the practicality of following an ideal because they don’t always mesh well with what is truly possible. They also may not match with what another believes is ideal.
However, the act of pursuing an ideal is not wrong. It’s the pure desire to change something for the better that will push a stone of change uphill until they reach the precipice where thanks to all the fruits and efforts of all the change comes tumbling down the mountain ever so faster.
Because ideals are weapons. They glitter and shine in the hearts of those who pursue them, which can charm all those who watch and believe.
An exemplary example of this can be found within the ideal of beauty. In the Blog Post #1 (Beauty of a Century), we explore how Opportunity magazine managed to sway all their readers thoughts and actions with a very loud cover that constantly tries to be beautiful.
And it’s a great idea. It can easily be found that no matter the culture and no matter the country, beauty is celebrated. And this lends itself to the question, what is beauty? How do we know something is beautiful, and how do we define that in literal word? Even with a brief glance through history, what is considered beautiful vastly differs between cultures and time periods.
So how did Opportunity magazine manage to be beautiful when the definition of beauty is so malleable? They went for a very wild approach, but yet, effective none the same. Through sheer variety, they created covers that would be beautiful in some way to a vast array of audiences. And the cherry on top is that most of them included a black female figure to prove that black people are just as beautiful as everyone else.
It’s a powerful example for the strength of a group that earnestly strives for their ideals. And this movement will not burn out in their generation, but the torch will be passed down through generation as the new blood carries the flame. Though they may carry their torches in a different way. Namely, the Fire!!! Magazine was published by the younger generation, attempting to direct the movement to better represent what it meant to be black to them.
There is a noticeable difference in the idealism of children and adults. I attempt to compare and contrast the two in the following Blog Post #3 (Nostalgia and Rain), where I bring up the difference in the world view between an adult and a child. Where the child doesn’t understand, the adult understands all too well, and almost tries to shield the eyes of the child in an attempt to buy just a little more time to change the world before they have to confront it for themselves. And we can find this kind of effort with a side publication of the same company who created Opportunity Magazine known as The Brownies Book. This book was meant to give children of the time literature that they could act in the same way as the other children, and that the stereotypes portraying them in other forms of media, weren’t accurate at all.
Ideals can be found in every part of the culture of the Harlem Renaissance and is one of the most defining features of it. It’s not making the best of a bad situation, but changing the whole situation outright with the tools they had on hand. The most pivotal point is that they didn’t give up. They didn’t accept their bad hand, but worked to stack the deck in their favor.
Keep your ideals strong and let them shine like a torch. It’s incredibly frustrating to have people say to you, “Look at reality” and completely dismiss your vision out of hand for being way too outside the norm as a vast majority just don’t feel like it’s feasible. But no matter what they say, change that astounds the world can still happen, even if it’s going to be a long time in the future. The Harlem Renaissance was able to show that complete and magnificent change, that echoed throughout the nation.
The Brownies’ Book Magazine
Fraternities and Sororities. (1925). Opportunity, 3(26), 48–50.
HARRIS, D. (2019). Printing the Color Line in The Crisis. In On company time: American modernism in the big magazines (pp. 80–82). essay, COLUMBIA UNIV Press.
How it feels to be Colored Me by Zora Houston
Holmes, A. (2021, February 18). The magazine that helped 1920s kids navigate racism. The Atlantic. Retrieved March 8, 2022, from https://www.theatlantic.com/culture/archive/2021/02/how-w-e-b-du-bois-changed-black-childhood-america/617952/
Hughes, L. (1925). The Weary Blues. Opportunity, 3(29), 143–143.
Johnson, James. “The Making of a Harlem.” Survey Graphic, vol. 6, no. 6, 1925, p. 636.
Locke, A. (1925). Enter the New Negro. Survey Graphic: Harlem of the New Negro, 53(11).
McKay, Claude. “Like a Strong Tree.” Survey Graphic, vol. 6, no. 6, 1925, p. 662.