A recently discovered unpublished novel by Harlem Renaissance author Claude McKay, titled Amiable with Big Teeth: A Novel of the Love Affair Between the Communists and the Poor Black Sheep of Harlem, was reportedly written in 1941 and has been slated for publication in this still fairly new 21st Century. The “discovery” of the novel supports the theory that the Harlem Renaissance lasted substantially longer than the 1920s-1930s timeframe generally attributed to it.
In addition, it illustrates the still-emerging impact of the renaissance, which did not restrict itself to Harlem but spread throughout the U.S. and international community. Along the same lines, one of the leading visual artists of the movement, Elizabeth Catlett, remained productive virtually up until her death in Cuernavaca, Mexico, on April 2, 2012, at the age of 96. Catlett may very well have been the last of the Harlem Renaissance’s extraordinarily gifted artists.
All Eyes on the Year 2020
The only real question at this point is when should events commemorating the 100th Anniversary of the Harlem Renaissance begin and what form should the proceedings take? This question is not a presumptuous considering that organizations––including the NAACP, National Urban League, and the Delta Sigma Theta Sorority–– which began growing into prominence during the period are already observing 100th-year birthdays. The year 2020 works well because it falls neatly enough between the centennial of the phenomenal Shuffle Along (1921) which Langston Hughes considered the start of the renaissance, and that of the July 1919 publication of McKay’s “If We Die.”
2020 could also serve as a definitive benchmark that sets the stage for not just a single year of observations but a decade that could generate a new renaissance while simultaneously honoring the first. Certainly there should be readings and performances of those works produced by the grand masters who created the canon that defined and preserved the era. And a resolution issued by the United Nations declaring 2020 as the Year of the Harlem Renaissance Centennial would not be inappropriate. Nor would programs in which emerging and established creative artists were presented with Harlem Renaissance Awards.
As it was with the first renaissance, the possibilities for the year 2020 really are unlimited. Those African Americans who gave their blood, sweat, and soul to endow the Harlem Renaissance with crucial significance have already done their part. What remains is for Americans and the world community to begin tagging resources and filling in calendar dates with acknowledgements worthy of their awe-inspiring triumphs.
co-author of Encyclopedia of the Harlem Renaissance
and ELEMENTAL The Power of Illuminated Love
Have a Happy Black History Month
- The Harlem Renaissance and the Year 2020 (Part 1)
- 100th Anniversary of the Harlem Renaissance
- Poem for a President: Midnight Flight of the Poetry Angels
- Jazz Harlem Renaissance Baby Doll
- Harlem Renaissance Dialogues Part 1 Living and Writing Black History
- Harlem Renaissance Dialogues Part 2 Savannah and the Harlem Renaissance
- Great Moments in African-American History 2009 Part 3
- Countdown of Great Moments 2010 Part 2 Beyonce and Jay-Z
- Black History Month Enhanced by International Year for People of African Descent
- Celebrating the International Year for People of African Descent