Women in the Harlem Renaissance

The Harlem of renaissance is an important period in the history of African American society. It is the period in the African American literature movement between the early 1920’s and the late 1930’s when important men and women African writers made contribution in the literature. The period has been considered as the most successful era of the African American literature. Notable figures in the Harlem renaissance have been a center of modern studies with scholars doing extensive studies and research on their work as well as their lives[1].Women writers in the Harlem of renaissance were faced with many challenges in the society that was dominated by the men and racial discrimination. These challenges were basically because they were African Americans and were born female. In the first half of the 20th century, the people of color were treated as second class citizens, discriminated and segregated based on their race. This became worse if the victims of this inequality were women since they were exposed to gender-based discrimination and sexual harassment. African American women therefore had a challenge in the development of their literacy career because of their identity as African American women[2].Despite the challenges, some African American women were outstanding in their literacy work. These women include Nella Larsen, Zora N Hurston, Countee Cullen, Jessie Fauset and Claude McKay among others. They wrote outstanding literary works with sophisticated irony which covered all aspects of life including family matters, love, politics of the day, racial discrimination and pride, betrayal and skepticism that was evident in the society. The work of these women proved a point to the American society that was unequal. The outstanding work portrayed that the African Americans including women had equal ability of being articulate and literate as the other races considered superior. The ability of the African American women, women from a race that had just been freed from slavery, to be creative and articulate was a clear evidence that African Americans were equal to the white.The women in the Harlem renaissance made great contribution in portraying the abilities of African Americans. The women writer joined other literary performers such as actors, musicians and other artists in education the Americans and the world that African Americans had equal abilities and capabilities as the white Americans. However, the society was faced with various economic changes during the same time as a result of the great depression which threatened the American economy with collapse. The Harlem renaissance did not therefore work well as it could be expected as the dominant whites changed fashions as a result of the economic crisis. Despite this, the history of the women in the Harlem renaissance was already written, some of whom are considered to be the most heroic literary work in the American poetry of the 20th century[3].One of the most prominent women in the Harlem renaissance is Jessie Fauset. She was born in the state of New Jersey in 1882 and termed herself as an Old Philadelphian since she was brought up in Philadelphia. She was among the first African American women to attain university education and graduated in 1905. She was later employed as a high school teacher in Washington. She taught French for some time in high school and obtained a second degree in from the University of Pennsylvania in the late 1910’s. She worked as an editor of The Crisis and brownie’s book magazines[4].Fauset became an important figure in the Harlem renaissance while working as an editor. She was instrumental in nurturing the talents of young African American writers through encouragement and support. She is responsible for the development of great writers such as Jean Toomer and Langston Hughes among others. She was a great novelist throughout her career life and wrote formally structured verses which can be considered inflexible when compared to the modern literature. Her contribution to the African American literature was unequal considering the circumstances under which she wrote. Her wide range of knowledge is possible as a result of exposure to other societies of the world from her extensive travels in Europe and North Africa. Her experiences in these travels created images and developed cinematic metaphors which made her writings outstanding[5].Georgia Johnson is also considered to be a hero in the Harlem renaissance. She was a close associate of Fauset and was one of the few women in the Harlem renaissance to publish three verses. She was born in Atlanta in 1880 and studied music at the university. Unfortunately, she was married to a bureaucrat who did not support her literacy career. After the death of her husband in 1925, she started meeting great writers such as Fauset and others in her house in the evenings. These meetings had large impact in the development of literature among the African American women. Although Johnson continued supporting the development of literature among the African American women, the death of her husband was a big challenge. She had two children in college and therefore struggled to provide for her family. She spent most of her time working especially in the late 1920’s which threatened her literature career. Though she was a creative writer, she struggled to compete with male writers for literary grants and therefore worked as teacher, librarian and at one time as a federal bureaucrat[6].Johnson wrote many verses, drama and music which proved her to be a prolific and creative writer. Racial identity, love and romance were the common themes of her poems. Her verses advocated for freedom especially for the people of color and issues affecting women in the society. One of her most terrific verses was The Heart of a Woman which defined the identity of a woman in the society. Other successful women in the Harlem renaissance who worked closely with Fauset and Johnson include Countee Cullen, Jean Toomer, Claude McKay and Gwendolyn Bennett among others[7]. Bennett was born in a middle class family in the early 20th century. After her university education, she worked as an editor in the Opportunity magazine which was very common among the African Americans. Her literacy powerless was as a result of her creativity and extensive travels. She was one of the founders of the Fire magazine which was a very critical African American magazine though its publication was short-lived[8].There is no doubt that women played an important role in the Harlem Renaissance. They inspired each other through encouragement and support to realize their literacy ambitions. With the main themes of the verses covering the current issues affection the society such as social identity, love and romance and politics, together with their creativity, they emerged heroic in the African American literature.