W.E.B. Du Bois described the leaders of the movement as the Talented Tenth, a few privileged professionals who were nearly all second generation college graduates. These intellectuals "perceived that, although the roads to the ballot box, the union hall . . . and the office were blocked" off, there were two paths that were not barred: arts and letters (Lewis, "
In the fall of 1917, the rediscovered African-American was publicly announced with Emily Hapgood's production of three one-act plays: The Rider of Dreams, Simon the Cyrenian, and Granny Maumee, all written by her husband, Ridgely Torrence. This production, presented at the Old Garden Street Theater near Broadway, was a significant event because the cast was all-black and the parts were dignified. The plays and the actors were both given high reviews, which helped propel African-Americans into the spotlight (Lewis, Introduction xx). Thus, African-Americans were beginning to assert themselves and to be recognized in the literary and artistic realms, which white Americans dominated at the time. Two years later, the Hapgood production was preceeded by the presentation of O'Neill's Emperor Jones and several other plays which featured black actors. The Harlem Renaissance, which would develop a new African-American consciousness, had officially begun and would continue until 1935.
Acccording to David Levering Lewis, the literary movement was broken up into three phases: the Bohemian Renaissance, the era of the Talented Tenth, and the Negro Renaissance (Introducation xvii). Each phase had distinctly different influences and produced different writings.
Phase one, the Bohemian Renaissance, spanning from 1917-1923, was dominated by white authors writing about black people. These authors, the Bohemians and Revolutionaries, were fascinated with the life of black people. Eugene O'Neill's Emperor Jones was an example of a play, written by a white author, which featured a black man as a main character who was, in turn, played by a black actor, Charles Gilpin. Ironically, the play was not accepted by the
The second phase, from 1924-1926, was presided over by the Civil Rights establishments of the National Urban League (NUL) and the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP). It was a "period of interracial collaboration between Zora Neal Hurston's 'Negrotarian' whites and the African American Talented Tenth".
The dominant ideology of the third phase was the advancement of African-American civil rights through the creation of an artistic and literary movement. According to W.E.B. Du Bois, white people, who suggested that blacks quit complaining about not having recognition and start showing what they could do, helped create the second period of the Harlem Renaissance. Black writers, afraid to fight and allured by money and publicity, agreed and decided to show what they deserved and let the reward come to them.
And it is right here that the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People comes upon the field, comes with its great call to a new battle, a new fight and new things to fight before the old things are wholly won; and to say that the beauty of truth and freedom which shall some day be our heritage and the heritage of all civilized men is not in our hands yet and that we ourselves must not fail to realize.
The NUL and NAACP, which propaganda had influenced, were the driving force in this phase of the Harlem Renaissance and dictated what should be written.
The third and final phase, beginning before the second phase was complete, was called the Negro Renaissance. African-Americans themselves dominated the third phase of the Harlem Renaissance, which began in 1926 and ended with the
As short as the literary period of the Harlem Renaissance was, a legacy was left that African-Americans today can be proud of. Although the uneducated workingman of