cover image HARLEM STOMP! A Cultural History of the Harlem Renaissance

HARLEM STOMP! A Cultural History of the Harlem Renaissance

Laban Carrick Hill, . . Little, Brown/ Tingley, $18.95 (151pp) ISBN 978-0-316-81411-9

This energetic, elegantly designed volume documents the artistic, literary and musical surge of black culture in Harlem from 1900 to 1924, presenting the events and personalities that led to both its ascension and decline. Hill first introduces the pivotal opposing points of view of the time, that of Booker T. Washington—born into slavery, who "strongly supported the principle of nonconfrontation"—and W.E.B. Du Bois, born free, whose ideas were considered "radical" and who believed that "the Negro race must be made leaders of thought and missionaries of culture among their people." The author then weaves in other voices, solo and in groups, and brief bios of lesser-known heroes (such as Sgt. Henry Johnson, an African-American and the first American soldier—black or white—in WWI to receive the Croix de Guerre; and pioneering editor and educator Charles Spurgeon Johnson). Hill sets the backdrop for the Great Migration of blacks from South to North (illustrated with the first of Jacob Lawrence's Migration Series paintings) and explores the effects of a glut of Harlem housing which led to the settlement of African-Americans there. Sidebars highlight such issues as the "Negro Scare" racket, a real estate strategy that exploited whites' fears of black encroachment into white residential areas. A generous helping of primary source material brings the era to life in the voices of the dynamic people who made it flourish, including the poems of Langston Hughes, sheet music for "Lift Ev'ry Voice and Sing," advertisements and excerpts from news stories. The inviting design makes use of blocks of jazzy colors, mod type and a smattering of period illustrations (by the likes of Aaron Douglas and others). Hill also shines light on everyday rituals, such as the practice of strolling down the Harlem boulevards, the importance of churches and the flourishing of jazz clubs (such as the famous Cotton Club). The book closes with the stock market crash's devastating effects on the Harlem Renaissance; the resulting Great Depression caused five times more unemployment in Harlem than in other parts of the city and led to an exodus of many of its leaders. This compelling history will leave readers familiar or unfamiliar with this high-flying period eager to discover more. Ages 12-up. (Jan.)