The Harlem Renaissance: A Social Documentary Through Art


Introductory Wall Text:

Carl Van Vechten, Portrait of Zora Neale Hurston, 1938

Carl Van Vechten, Portrait of Zora Neale Hurston, 1938

The Harlem Renaissance was a period of cultural revival for African Americans that lasted from the 1920s to the 1940s. During this period, blacks generated for themselves a sense of pride and identity through creative expression. Though the literary, musical, and artistic innovation was concentrated in Harlem, New York City, the passion there soon spilled over and spread across the United States.

This attention to the local was never more profoundly embodied than in the work of Zora Neale Hurston, a prominent essayist, poet, and above all, anthropologist of the Harlem Renaissance. The art produced at this time varied greatly in theme. It ranges from the depiction of grandiose urban lifestyles to mundane rural landscapes; from the frivolous daily motions of individuals to the all-encompassing and weighty themes of slavery and cultural origins in Africa.

Note on selection choices: We decided to focus on the societal unit, and moreover, its diversity and mutability.  Based on this observation, we surmised: What better way to model our approach to after than the anthropological work of Zora Neale Hurston herself?

About This ProjectAn Interdisciplinary Exploration of African-American Culture

Developed by Associate Professor of History Julian Chambliss and funded through an Associated Colleges of the South (ACS) Mellon Faculty Renewal Grant, Project Mosaic fosters synergistic dialogue among faculty from five academic disciplines and greater depth within the disciplinary core of each course. As a result, this multidisciplinary approach maximizes exploration of African and African-American cultures in general and understanding of Hurston in specific.

By incorporating AAAS thematic focuses across disciplines, Project Mosaic adopts a truly liberal arts approach to analyzing peoples of African descent’s past and present culture, achievements, characteristics, and issues in a global context. And it accomplishes this by leveraging participating faculty from the Departments of AnthropologyArt and Art HistoryEducation, and History to lead their students in exploring Hurston’s cultural impact through their distinct disciplinary lens.

In addition, by creating and preserving student work with web-based exhibits, this project builds on recent scholarship that suggests giving students agency to create content is the best way to link technology to the classroom. Thus, Project Mosaic enhances awareness of the subject matter while stimulating learning within the context of a liberal arts experience.

Continue Viewing: The Project Mosaic Hurston

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