Black people in front of Harlem Brownstones in the 1920s

In the early 1900s, Black Americans searched for a new identity during the Great Migration. This era marked African Americans moving from the south to Harlem, New York City. Harlem was originally designed to be an upper-class white neighborhood 20 years prior to the Great Migration, which led to certain white residents fighting to keep African Americans out. The origins of this unique section of Manhattan are significant because of the neighborhood’s transformation from Dutch to Irish to Jewish to African descendant. The Great Migration proceeded what was known as the golden age of artistic culture, thriving literature, music and stage performances called the Harlem Renaissance. This era, which lasted between the 1910s through the mid-1930s, facilitated a way for Black people to create their own identity.

According to Explaining Black Conservatives: Racial Uplift or Racial Resentment by Byron D’Andra Orey, racial uplift is defined as a philosophy or ideology of self-help applied to Black conservatives. This ideology of educated African Americans bettering themselves relates directly to the Harlem Renaissance as Black American pursued assert artistic and social freedoms. In my three blog posts, “New Chosen Identity,” “The Making of Black Excellence,” and “Worthy Black Contributions,” I explore the theme of Black excellence and Black resistance as it oozes throughout literature of the Harlem Renaissance. What makes Black excellence? What makes Black contributions worthy of being read? Is there any relevance to white people’s influences and opinions on Black people in the United States?  This blog site, “Black Excellence Thrives On,” will answer these questions with supporting examples from literature created during the golden age of Black creativity in Harlem, New York City.

Group picture of Black people during the Harlem Renaissance

“New Negroes” didn’t aim to be lazy in society; they aimed to find their rightful place. The social damage of slavery is continuously being repaired as Black people progress into their capabilities and their talents. Opportunity magazine was a sophisticated, academic journal that kept a published record of African American experiences during the Harlem Renaissance. The Unites States never intended for Black people to survive, thrive and display resilience, and certainly didn’t expect Black people to be excellent. Black excellence and Black resilience go hand-in-hand with the Harlem Renaissance. European descendants only intended for African descendants to be laborers and become disposable. African descendants were not seen or thought of by Europeans to be excellent and resilient. This is why it is vital for me to provide a rich description in this overview of the many examples of Black excellence and Black resilience.

This blog site is designed to explain and demonstrate Black excellence and worthy Black contributions to society as it directly relates to Black humanity. I define Black excellence as a mindset of ways where Black people excel and succeed in their Blackness within their community. Black resilience was built throughout the decades of the unfortunate mistreatment of Africans and African descendants in the United States. The significance of my chosen theme is to emphasis the role lost Black Literature plays in recovering Black humanity. African Americans were seen as nothing more than property and exploited or surplus labor. Dispossession was unfairly thrown onto Black people predominately by the white community.

Collage of some greats from the Harlem Renaissance Era

Harlem Renaissance literature serves as evidence of worthy Black contributions into society, which are ignored and often misconstrued as if Black people are burdens to the world. This is an issue because European colonizers have forced themselves to sustain the power of information, power over what’s considered valuable information and valuable literature. Humanity seems to only exist for Black people on digital platforms through archives. Recovering past contributions of Black people, such as Black literature, is important for reminding members of the white community that Black people are worthy beyond physical labors and the white community’s personal gain.

Bringing my selected posts, “New Chosen Identity,” “The Making of Black Excellence,” and “Worthy Black Contributions” together, these three posts recognize Black creativity in Harlem which flourished because of the artistic and social freedoms Black people experienced throughout the 1920s. In my “New Chosen Identity” post, I wrote about how Black people’s representation of themselves and their choice to be eloquent or not in the U.S. is a choice they should enjoy freely. I referenced to The Crisis magazine, a publication in this post because I admire how it communicated the Black experience in the U.S. by allowing African descendants to control and reconstruction their own narrative. My “The Making of Black Excellence” post focused on the importance and origins of Harlem, NYC when Black people’s occupancy in the 1920s birthed the idea of the “New Negro.” “New Negroes” desired to adjust well into society by educating and refining themselves and using art to create Black excellence, as Henry Louis Gates, Jr described in The Trope of a New Negro and the Reconstruction of the Image of the Black.  My main point in “Worthy Black Contributions” was the significance of exploring past contributions of Black people to remind members of the white community of Black people’s worth beyond physical labors.

These three themes from my blog posts combinedly represents Black people’s fight to create their own representation of self, Black people’s desire to be artistic, educated and refined as well as the significance of exploring past worthy contributions beyond slavery. My themes recognizes how Black excellence is seen as a threat to a whitewashed society. African Americans will thrive as they continue to dictate their own identity, representation and add valuable contributions to society.

A Harlem parade in 1920

There are three literature archives I will share to directly connect with Black excellence, resilience, and proof of Black worthy contributions to society. The first archive I will highlight is found in Lost Plays of the Harlem Renaissance by Leo Hamalian and James V. Hatch. In a passage that credits George S. Grant, he wrote, “The term BLACK AMERICANS fills a long felt want. The argument for it begins with the fundamental assertion that we are not Negroes (niggers) or colored people but Americans.” (Grant, 401) Grants continued in this passage explaining his argument of inequality European colonizers subscribe to in the U.S., and the false notion that beauty, economic and the control of political power should be empowered for white Americans. Grant’s perspective relates directly to my earlier point on white people needing reminders that they aren’t the only worthy citizens in America; Black Americans matter, also. Another part of Lost Plays of the Harlem Renaissance I want to highlight is a passage from Eulalie Spence who wrote proudly of Black people’s worthy contributions in theater, specifically at the Lincoln Theater which was a Black theater in Harlem. “The Rider of Dreams [play] won immediate acclaim and will always take its place in every noteworthy collection of Negro plays,” Spence wrote. (Spence, 464)

This is Metropolitan African Methodist Episcopal Church where Lincoln Theater once was.

The second archive I will highlight is Measuring the Harlem Renaissance: The U.S. Census, African American Identity, and Literary Form by Michael Soto. Soto wrote these very important facts to paint the picture of the Great Migration: “In 1920, [Emmett Jay] Scott, a civic leader, adviser to Booker T. Washington, and Howard University administrator, argued that ‘within the brief period of three years following the outbreak of the great war in Europe, more than four hundred thousand negroes moved north. In extent this movement is without parallel in American history, for it swept on thousands of the blacks from remote regions of the South, and spread from Florida to the western limits of Texas.’ ” Harlem, and other urban northern cities, would not be the cites they are now if it wasn’t for the relocation of Black Americans.  Another important section of this archive is when Soto wrote this: “[…] by the early 1920s, the initial moments of the Harlem Renaissance, most Americans believed that the internal migration of African Americans from the rural South to the urban North had, for better or for worse, redrawn the American social landscape. The tectonic social shift required all Americans to rethink the political, social, and cultural roles of the African American in U.S. life.” This relocation of Black people relates directly to my point earlier about adjusting well into society by educating and refining themselves.

The third archive I will highlight is Harlem Renaissance Artists and Writers by Wendy Hart Beckman. In its preface, Beckman explains the three phases of the Harlem Renaissance. Phase one, “which ended around 1923, was highly influenced by white artists and writers who were interested in black culture,” she wrote. (Beckman, 5) Phase two, which took place around 1924 to 1926, was when more Black people, “began to express their creativity and philosophy themselves.” (Beckman, 6) Phase three, “marked a rebellion against the civil rights leaders and pushed art for art’s sake.” (Beckman, 6) This phase of the movement, taking place from the mid-1926 until March 1935, “was dominated by what [Zora Neal] Hurston called the ‘Niggerati’—prolific black writers and artists,” Beckman said. This archive proves the entirety of my explanation and demonstration of Black excellence and Black resilience. The Harlem Renaissance went through these three different phases to improve itself. This era was and still is a golden age for gigantic, unforgettable Black artists and writers who produced works that will forever inspire future generation of creators.

These three selected archives clearly connect with Black excellence, resilience, and proof of Black worthy contributions to society. African Americans are consistently overcoming hardships and their archives are valuable because they are Black people’s truth.  Harlem Renaissance has plenty of art, literature, and monumental figures to prove white society wrong about Black people’s “unworthiness.” Archives aren’t only important when they come from white people. Archives from African Americans are valuable because it tells their lives more accurately than European colonizers.  I encourage everyone reading this to further explore literature from African descendants/ Black people. My selected blog posts showed readers that Black literature not only exists, but it is as “excellent” as European literature. Black literature is necessary for the world to truly understand Black excellence and resilience from the people who can accurately write it; Black people themselves. My blog site truly provides an insight to how Black excellence thrives on.


Orey, Byron D’Andra. “Explaining Black Conservatives: Racial Uplift or Racial Resentment?” 34:1, 18-22,, The Black Scholar, (2004)

Gates, Henry Louis. “The Trope of a New Negro and the Reconstruction of the Image of the Black.” Representations, no. 24, 1988, pp. 129–55. JSTOR, Accessed 22 May 2022.

Hamalian, Leo and Hatch, James V. Lost Plays of the Harlem Renaissance. 1920-1940. Wayne State University Press, 1996. ProQuest Ebook Central.

Soto, Michael. Measuring the Harlem Renaissance: The U.S. Census, African American Identity, and Literary Form. Journal of the Midwest Modern Language Association, vol. 50 no. 1, 2017, p. 130-133. Project MUSE, doi:10.1353/mml.2017.0008.

Beckman, Wendy Hart. Harlem Renaissance Artists and Writers. Enslow Publishing, LLC, 2013. ProQuest Ebook Central,

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