Sunday, May 16, 2010

"Black Capital: Harlem in 1920's"

"Black Capital: Harlem in 1920's"

First I will start off by saying this exhibit was magnificent. This exhibit depicts the lives of black people living in Harlem during the 1920's. In my opinion, there was little to no bias in this exhibit. It represented the lower class, as well as explained the realities of situations such as the cost of living, and racism. The exhibit focuses on the African American race and just one of their efforts to fight for equality. The exhibit primarily highlights the accomplishments of black men of the time, but that is because of their tremendous achievements. Still it does not leave women out. The main photograph for the exhibit shows 3 African American women dressed nicely on the streets of Harlem. The choices of photography, the layout and the media used were all very effective in communicating the meaning that blacks were trying to create for Harlem.

These two quotes struck me in particular... They called Harlem, the "center of black political activism" and "their spiritual haven"

The exhibit starts off by addressing the fact that New York City was in fact segregated. Blacks were banned from attending cultural, community, religious, and even educational events. This caused blacks outrage so they wanted to start up their own legacy.

They created their own churches- the exhibit had a pulpit, which was an easy way to encourage visitors to think about what life was like in an all black church in Harlem at that time.

Pulpit from an African American Church

Blacks started their own community organizations, including those centered on sports and literature.  Most importantly, blacks initiated the Harlem Renaissance, which significantly changed the country's views on blacks, and served as a creative outlet for blacks.

"Children's fashion contest, in front of Green's Employment Agency"
Otis Butler, photographer c 1928
Photo courtesy of Photographs and Prints Division, Schomburg center for Research in Black Culture
The New York Public Library: Astor, Lenox, and Tilden Foundation
I like this choice of photograph because it shows the diversity amongst the particular race, in this case African Americans. This shows how children were also segregated.

Sports equipment and photograph of Black sports team

Jazz club was one of the activities that attracted white people to the Harlem community to watch the black performers. They also expressed themselves through art such as painting, to express the "survival over struggle and diversity."

Jazz Instruments of famous Black artists

Some of the most famous works by African American Authors
one of which is by W.E.B Dubois' Souls of Black Folks

"How did African Americans work to improve the quality of their lives in America?"
The exhibit focused on three of the most important black groups that helped influence and better the quality of life for African Americans in the United States.

Harlem was the center of the black political debate. It was a political power base during the time of lynching and discrimination. The Brotherhood of Sleeping Car Porters, The Universal Negro Improvement Association and the National Advancement Association for Colored People, all were doing their part in fighting for equality.

First, the exhibit admires a man by the name of A. Philip Randolph who started the Brotherhood of Sleeping Car Porters. 


The Universal Negro Improvement Association was according to the constitution amended in 1929 is is a "social, friendly, humanitarian, charitable, educational, institutional, constructive and expansive society, and is founded by persons desiring to do the utmost to work for the general uplift of the people of African ancestry of the world. And the members pledge themselves to do all in their power to conserve the rights of their noble race and to respect the rights of all mankind, believing always in the Brotherhood of Man and the Fatherhood of God. The motto of the organization is 'One God! One Aim! One Destiny!' Therefore, let justice be done to all mankind, realizing that if the strong oppresses the weak, confusion and discontent will ever mark the path of man but with love, faith and charity towards all the reign of peace and plenty will be heralded into the world and the generations of men shall be called Blessed."

The National Association for the Advancement of Colored People was led by W.E.B DuBois and the mission of the NAACP is "to ensure the political, educational, social, and economic equality of rights of all persons and to eliminate racial hatred and racial discrimination."- NAACP- OUR MISSION 

These two groups were what made the blacks able to fight for their freedom.  Without them, there would have been no outlet for them. In order for blacks to make an impact there needed to be some sort of structure.

The exhibit had video as well as audio to enhance the viewers experience. It notes of one man who made a difference. His name was Arthur Schomburg, and he saved numerous of articles, newspapers, photographs,etc in order to mark the significance of Harlem. The exhibit ends with Harlem today, and how the rich African American culture and the fight for freedom still exists today.

Other photographs of the exhibit...

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