What is a renaissance? A renaissance is a movement or period of vigorous artistic and intellectual activity. There was a famous renaissance in Europe during the transition from medieval times to modern times that is still taught today.
The Harlem Renaissance was an African American cultural movement of the late 1920s and early 1930s that was centered in the Harlem neighborhood of New York City. Variously known as the New Negro movement, the New Negro Renaissance, and the Negro Renaissance; the movement emerged toward the end of World War I in 1918, blossomed in the mid- to late 1920s, and then faded in the mid-1930s with the beginning of the Great Depression. Black painters and sculptors joined their fellow poets, novelists, dramatists, and musicians in an artistic outpouring that established Harlem as the international capital of Black culture. The Harlem Renaissance was an African American cultural birth that emphasized the artistic and intellectual abilities of African Americans.
Africans and their descendants have been an essential part of the story of America since the late 1400s. Horton (2002) says Blacks were scouts, interpreters, navigators, and military men, and were among those who first encountered Native Americans. Beginning in the colonial period, African Americans provided most of the labor on which European settlement, development, and wealth depended, especially after European wars and diseases decimated Native Americans. The first African slaves brought to the English colonies in North America came on a Dutch privateer that landed at Jamestown, Virginia, in August 1619, thus beginning the battle between the Whites and the Blacks. Slaves were confined for two to three months in irons in the hold of a slave ship during the crossing of the Atlantic Ocean called the Middle Passage, where thousands died on their way to the colonies. The vast majority of Africans brought to the British colonies worked as agricultural laborers; many were brought to the colonies specifically for their experience in rice growing, cattle herding, or river navigation (Collier, 1985).