Jazz Dance/Harlem Renaissance

Jazz, dance, and the Harlem Renaissance—three things Shmoop can really get behind.

LanguageEnglish Language
U.S. HistoryThe Progressive Era and the Roaring Twenties: 1890-1929

Transcript

00:30

In the 1920's and 30's, they broke through with a new musical style that doesn't have

00:35

quite so many negative connotations.

00:38

We're talking about jazz.

00:41

In fact, we're talking very excitedly about it.

00:48

Guess you could say we're jazzed about jazz.

00:53

The songs themselves, as well as the dances that arose from them...

00:55

...have always been closely associated with black culture.

00:59

Not all jazz musicians were black, but all of the early ones were.

01:04

The genre was kick-started in New Orleans...

01:06

...with all black musicians and audiences...

01:08

...and the music was mostly improvisational.

01:17

What set jazz apart from other musical styles of the period was its syncopated rhythm...

01:27

...the blend of big brass instruments with traditional African music...

01:32

...and the "scatting."

01:34

Scatting is improvisational singing, where you're not necessarily singing real words.

01:39

Something like this: <<DS scats poorly.>> Okay, this is why we leave scatting to the professionals.

01:52

Of course, like just about everything in black history, jazz music was not without controversy.

02:00

Various groups boycotted the music, and some created movements against it...

02:04

...calling it "the devil's music."

02:06

Obviously not true, although it can get hotter than H-E-double hockey sticks in New Orleans.

02:12

When Prohibition started, speakeasies allowed for jazz to be played in places where it was

02:17

otherwise banned.

02:18

These speakeasies were basically bars where blacks and whites were allowed to mix and mingle.

02:23

Pretty enlightened for establishments that were generally quite... poorly lit.

02:30

While blacks were making headway in the South...

02:32

...there was another cultural movement taking place up north in New York...

02:35

the Harlem Renaissance.

02:38

So... just imagine if Michelangelo and Da Vinci worked out of a studio on 126th Street.

02:49

The Harlem Renaissance featured a major emphasis on both art and music.

02:54

The Black Rights advocates of the time went to great lengths to circulate positive ideals

02:59

and views of black Americans.

03:01

They tried to show any doubters that African Americans

03:05

could be just as creative as anyone else.

03:09

This went a long way to accomplishing their goal.

03:12

People like Bing Crosby... white... and Lena Horne... black...

03:16

became famous during the Harlem Renaissance.

03:19

Black literature and poetry from artists such as Langston Hughes were published in black

03:23

journals and magazines...

03:25

...and worked wonders at giving black culture its day in the sun.

03:30

Of course, it wasn't all rainbows and ponies.

03:32

All this new exposure and success for the black community

03:35

angered and outraged some whites...

03:38

...and people rioted and formed lynch mobs.

03:42

A lynching, if you didn't know, is where they hang you from a tree.

03:47

It wasn't an easy road to travel, but it was an important one.

03:50

While the fight is a long way from over...

03:52

... blacks have certainly opened the eyes... and ears...

03:54

of many people who didn't always view them as equals.