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(Note: Preface is taken from uncorrected proofs. Changes may be made prior to publication.)

The Harlem Renaissance today is a topic of great interest, celebrated as the most creative period in African-American cultural life. Yet even now, some seventy-five years later, there still is little agreement about the extent of the renaissance, either in time or in content, and there is still debate about the quality of the creative work it spawned, its impact on African-American and American history, and its impact on race relations. Part of the problem is that even the African-American intellectuals who created and tried to define the movement, and provided its critical framework, disagreed among themselves and with the African-American writers and artists who provided its creative force. During the Harlem Renaissance as well as today participants and scholars alike disagreed among themselves about when it began; when it ended; what its artistic, political, and aesthetic focus should be; whether it was a success or a failure; whether it was a positive or a negative development in African-American culture; and, ultimately, whether it served the interests of blacks, the interests of whites, or both.

Although the Encyclopedia of the Harlem Renaissance will not resolve these debates, it is based on the belief that the Harlem Renaissance was one of the most significant developments in African-American history in the twentieth century. It also takes a very broad view of the renaissance and the connection of this movement to the major social, political, and intellectual developments in early twentieth-century African-American history. Consequently, the encyclopedia not only addresses the artistic and cultural events directly related to the Harlem Renaissance but also examines the political, economic, and social environment in which the movement took place. Placing the Harlem Renaissance within this broader context is necessary in order to fully understand the movement and its achievements, and to understand the work of individual artists, writers, and performers. With this in mind we structured the encyclopedia to provide deep coverage of the literary and artistic aspects of the movement as well as broad coverage of the political, social, economic, and legal issues that confronted African-Americans during the early twentieth century.

Our coverage of the artistic elements of the Harlem Renaissance includes essays on the literature, art, and music of the movement. There are extensive essays on major writers, artists, and performers, as well as pieces on most of the lesser-known figures. In addition, there are discussions of the major creative works, especially those that had an impact on the development of the Harlem Renaissance. Along with the so-called higher arts (poetry, literature, painting, sculpture, theater, classical music, and dance), expressions of popular culture are also covered, especially musical theater, musical reviews, and motion pictures. In other areas the line between popular culture and art is not entirely clear. Jazz, blues, and spirituals are treated as art forms, although they were also an expression of folk or popular culture. Although not everyone who wrote a poem, sang a song, or performed onstage is covered in this encyclopedia, we have attempted to include everyone who played a significant role in the renaissance, and those whose activities reflected or influenced some aspect African-American culture in the early twentieth century.

The Harlem Renaissance was, of course, situated in time and place. We see the movement as a phenomenon of the 1920s and the 1930s, beginning at about the end of World War I and fading out in the late 1930s. However, its temporal boundaries are not exact; they vary somewhat from one artistic category to another, and there are powerful antecedents existing as early as the turn of the century. For example, we include entries on individuals such as Paul Laurence Dunbar and Henry Ossawa Tanner, whose major work predates World War I but who had a significant influence on later writers and artists. Furthermore, the social, political, and economic developments that are intertwined with the movement are much less easy to contain; accordingly, various entries can range back into late nineteenth century and extend into the 1940s. The focus, though, is on the two decades following World War I.

The geographic boundaries of the Harlem Renaissance are also complicated. Clearly Harlem was central to the movement, and there are a large number of entries that examine multiple aspects of Harlem's life and history. However, the Harlem Renaissance was not confined to one location. For example, blues and jazz, two developments in music that helped define the renaissance, had their origins in a number of locations- New Orleans, Memphis, St. Louis, the Mississippi delta- and were transported north by people who migrated to Chicago, New York, and other cities. Likewise most of the writers, poets, actors, and artists moved to Harlem from other parts of the country; many emerged from artistic and cultural movements in places like Los Angeles, Houston, Dallas, New Orleans, and Atlanta. Also, African-American communities in other northern cities like Washington, Philadelphia, Boston, and Chicago had their own cultural movements, which contributed to the Negro Renaissance. Furthermore, neither the movement nor its influence was confined to the United States. Caribbean writers and artists immigrated to the United States and participated in the movement; others from this region influenced the political and cultural life of Harlem. African-American writers, artists, and performers traveled to the Caribbean, Africa, and Europe, where they interacted with the artistic and political life of Europeans and immigrants from the European African and Caribbean empires. A number of entries examine the connection of the Harlem Renaissance to this broader world.

Finally, race, in all its complexity is fundamental to the Harlem Renaissance. Each African-American writer or artist confronted in his or her own way the racism and colonialism of the United States and the western world; at the same time, each was connected to the emergence of the struggle for civil rights and the anticolonial movements. These issues had an impact on the Harlem Renaissance and on the lives and work of those who participated in it. This encyclopedia contains numerous entries that examine race and racism, both within the United States and abroad, especially in terms of how these issues defined the African-American experience in the early twentieth century and how they affected the life and work of the participants in the Harlem Renaissance.

One aspect of the racial experience that is the subject of several entries is the role of whites in the Harlem Renaissance. White authors writing about African-Americans; white patrons and supporters of the Harlem Renaissance; white publishers, producers, and booking agents; white critics and promoters-these all influenced African-American culture for better or worse. A closely related subject is the interaction between blacks and whites: most often black artists reacting with white publishers, promoters, and critics; but also the more complex interaction between the black intelligentsia and black writers and white publishers and intellectuals. Both W. E. B. Du Bois and James Weldon Johnson were black civil rights leaders, novelists, and poets in their own right, and both published, promoted, and critiqued the work of black artists and writers. Carl Van Vechten, a white novelist, wrote a major Harlem novel of the period and also served as a patron and promoter of black literature, art, and music, and as a documenter of the Harlem Renaissance.

The Encyclopedia of the Harlem Renaissance, then, examines all phases and all aspects of the Harlem Renaissance, as well as the broader cultural, political, social, and economic environment in which the renaissance, and indeed African-Americans, functioned in the first half of the twentieth century. Entries address individual participants and major works and a wide range of related issues that fall into several large categories. Entries on individuals include participants in all aspects of the creative arts as well as journalists, political and cultural figures, and others who were simply personalities in Harlem and contributed to the ambience of the era. Entries on creative works cover all artistic fields but focus on books, anthologies, plays, motion pictures, and musical shows or revues. We also have entries on significant newspapers, literary magazines, and periodicals that either were directly connected to the Harlem Renaissance or helped define the political and social milieu. Likewise, we provide entries on artistic and cultural organizations along with political and civil rights groups. Harlem itself is covered in essays on its history and social and economic issues, as well as its nightlife and specific institutions and places in the neighborhood. Finally, there are a number of thematic and interpretive essays generally providing an overview of specific aspects of the renaissance such as music, literature, and the visual arts, and somewhat shorter essays that address specific concepts, events, and movements.

Through its breadth and diversity, this encyclopedia attempts to meet a common demand. Students, scholars, and the public at large are looking for information on the rich and complex culture of the Harlem Renaissance. Whether readers seek the broad outlines or fine details of the era, they will find here, in one work, an unparalleled resource—contributed by those dedicated to studying its achievements.


The Encyclopedia of the Harlem Renaissance is divided into two volumes. The entries are organized alphabetically. Volume 1 contains entries from A to [[TK]], and Volume 2 contains [[TK]] to Z and the index. To assist the user in finding material, each entry has cross-references ("See also") to related entries; and, as necessary, there are blind entries ("See") directing the reader to the proper essay. An extensive index also assists the reader in finding specific information that may not have its own entry or may be found in several entries. Each entry also includes a relatively short bibliography directing the reader to further information. The illustrations provide visual material for specific entries and for the Harlem Renaissance in general.

Contributing Authors

There are some 640 entries in the encyclopedia, representing the work of about 260 contributors. The contributors represent academic faculty members and independent scholars, writers, and artists. They include specialists in history, art, music, theater, dance, politics and political theory, economics, sociology, and African-American studies; and they come from across the United States as well as from abroad. Their work reflects the latest scholarship in their respective fields.


This encyclopedia, in general, uses the terms "African-American" and "black" interchangeably. It also uses "Negro," "Afro-American," "Aframerican," and similar terms of the early twentieth century in direct quotations and when these terms are appropriate to reflect the usages of the time and place. "Negro" is always capitalized, unless it was lowercase in source that is quoted directly. The use of the term "nigger" and its derivations is more complicated. This term has not been used here to denote a pejorative attitude toward African-Americans. However, as necessary and appropriate it has been used in direct quotations to capture accurately the language of poetry or literature, or to reflect and understand racist language. Terms like the book title Nigger Heaven, and terms like "niggerati" and "negritude" that refer to specific concepts, have been used as they were during the Harlem Renaissance. Our approach to the use of words is to be true to the language of the period, maintain a language appropriate for scholarly discourse, and address racial issues accurately and honestly while avoiding needlessly offensive phrases.


There are a number of people who contributed to this project. First, our associate editors provided the broad knowledge of the period necessary to review the entries. They, along with our advisory board, also reviewed the list of entries and helped identify contributors. Vincent Virga provided us guidance and significant insight during a conversation at the Library of Congress. Rita Langford at the University of Tulsa performed some of the initial work in organizing the entry list. We want to add a special word of thanks to Arnold Rampersad, who served as an associate editor during the early phases of the project but had to withdraw as the demands of his administrative duties at his university increased. We also received a great deal of assistance from publishers. First, at Fitzroy Dearborn, where the project began, Paul Schellinger embraced our vision of this encyclopedia, and Robin Rhone and Audrey L. Berns guided the project during its initial phase. When Routledge took over from Fitzroy Dearborn, it committed the resources to help us complete the project quickly. Sylvia Miller, Mark Georgiev, and Kate Aker provided overall leadership, while Susan Gamer worked directly with us on an almost daily basis. We especially appreciate Susan's energy and hard work that kept the project moving and brought it to its completion. Finally, we wish to thank all our contributing authors for the expertise they brought to their essays; for completing their work in a timely manner; for completing revisions or taking on new assignments, often on a short schedule; and for maintaining their belief in the project as we moved toward its completion.

Cary D. Wintz
Paul Finkelman

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