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These Pictures Capture The Glory That Was The Harlem Renaissance

Throughout the 1920s and into the '30s, the Harlem neighborhood of New York City was a mecca of black community, music, fashion, and art that can best be described as a cultural renaissance.

Posted on February 7, 2020, at 11:01 a.m. ET

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At the start of the 20th century, the Harlem neighborhood of New York City was home to a largely black middle-class community that thrived following a period known as the Great Migration, when many black families left the oppressive South for new beginnings.

In the years that followed marked the era of the Harlem Renaissance, which saw a flourishing of art, music, dance, poetry, entrepreneurship, and fashion that set the foundation for black culture in America today. Artists who called Harlem their home, such as Augusta Savage and Aaron Douglas, developed a new visual lexicon for black culture, while writers and poets such as W.E.B. Du Bois and Zora Neale Hurston used language to help define the realities of the black American experience. At night, venues such as the Cotton Club and the Savoy Ballroom packed the dance floor with groundbreaking new musicians like Duke Ellington, Bessie Smith, and Cab Calloway.

These pictures capture the sights and scenes of Harlem during this quintessential time of American history.

Bettmann Archive / Getty Images

A police officer directs traffic in Harlem, 1925.

George Rinhart / Getty Images

A street scene in Harlem, 1927.

Bettmann / Bettmann Archive

A group of young girls play after school, 1925.

Underwood Archives / Getty Images

Lt. James Reese Europe and members of his 369th Infantry Regiment jazz band participate in a parade upon their return to the United States from Europe, 1919. The 369th was also known as the Harlem Hellfighters.

Smith Collection / Getty Images

A parade organized by the United Negro Improvement Association, 1920.

Bettmann / Bettmann Archive

Harlem residents queue at the voting polls in Harlem, 1926.

Michael Ochs Archives

Marcus Garvey (second from right) sits in the back of a car in a parade through Harlem, circa 1920.

Keystone-France / Getty Images

Harlem schoolboys, circa 1930.

Bettmann / Bettmann Archive

Worshippers at the Pentecostal Faith Church of All Nations in Harlem participate in one of their weekly baptism ceremonies, 1934.

Hansel Mieth / Getty Images

The newsrooms of the Amsterdam News in Harlem, 1938.

Metronome / Getty Images

Louis Armstrong shakes hands with EJ Harris while receiving an award from the National Swing Club of America, alongside (from left) bandleader Joe Springer, pianist Duke Ellington, and WMCA radio's Lee Grant, circa 1935.

Keystone / Getty Images

Customers wait in line at the Dunbar National Bank in Harlem, 1933.

Bettmann / Bettmann Archive

Men receive haircuts at a barbershop in Harlem, circa 1929.

Bettmann / Bettmann Archive

A'Lelia Walker, daughter of entrepreneur Madam C.J. Walker, supervises a facial in one of her mother's beauty parlors in Harlem, 1930.

Keystone-France / Getty Images

A man receives a manicure at a beauty parlor, circa 1930.

Bettmann / Bettmann Archive

A couple arrives at Club 66 for a party, 1935.

George Karger / Getty Images

The Cotton Club at night, 1937.

Bettmann / Bettmann Archive

Cootie Williams plays his trumpet in a crowed Harlem ballroom with Duke Ellington's band, circa 1930.

Bettmann / Bettmann Archive

An audience at Harlem's Cotton Club watches a performance, 1934.

Bettmann / Bettmann Archive

People dancing at the Savoy Ballroom, circa 1930.

Getty Images

Left: Men in zoot suits at the Savoy Ballroom, circa 1930. Right: A couple in a Harlem nightclub, 1930.

Anthony Barboza / Getty Images

A troupe of Harlem showgirls poses in costume on stage, circa 1920.

New York Daily News Archive / Getty Images

A lineup of waiters at the Small's Paradise nightclub, 1929.

John Springer Collection / Getty Images

Audiences gather outside the Lafayette Theater during a performance of Hallelujah, 1929.



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