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A Guide to Harlem Renaissance Materials

Compiled by Angela McMillian, Digital Reference Specialist

Drawing in two colors / Winold Reiss
Drawing in two colors /
Winold Reiss
1 print on Japanese paper.
Prints and Photographs Division.
Reproduction Number:

African-American expressions of writing, music, and art during the 1920s and 1930s are well represented in the vast collections of the Library of Congress. This guide presents the Library's resources as well as links to external Web sites on the Harlem Renaissance and a bibliography.

Library of Congress Web Site | External Web Sites | Selected Bibliography

Digital Collections

American Life Histories: Manuscripts from the Federal Writer's Project, 1936-1940

These life histories were collected and transcribed by the staff of the Folklore Project of the Federal Writers' Project for the U.S. Works Progress (later Work Projects) Administration (WPA) from 1936 to 1940. The Library of Congress collection includes 2,900 documents representing the work of more than 300 writers from 24 states. The collection includes interviews relating to the Harlem Renaissance entitled "Harlem Rent Parties" and "The Whites Invade Harlem." Search on the word Harlem in order to locate other life histories concerning Harlem.

Farm Security Administration/Office of War Information Black-and-White Negatives

The black-and-white photographs of the Farm Security Administration-Office of War Information Collection are a landmark in the history of documentary photography. The images show Americans at home, at work, and at play, with an emphasis on rural and small-town life and the adverse effects of the Great Depression, the Dust Bowl, and increasing farm mechanization. Search this collection, using the keyword Harlem, to locate photographs related to Harlem.

Southern Mosaic: The John and Ruby Lomax 1939 Southern States Recording Trip

The collection includes nearly 700 sound recordings, as well as fieldnotes, dust jackets, and other manuscripts documenting a three-month, 6,502-mile trip through the southern United States.

William P. Gottlieb: Photographs from the Golden Age of Jazz

The collection consists of jazz photographs taken by writer-photographer William P. Gottlieb, from 1938 to 1948, the "Golden Age of Jazz" when swing reached its peak and modern jazz developed. Gottlieb's photographs are perhaps the most widely reproduced images of jazz musicians, such as Louis Armstrong, Duke Ellington, Charlie Parker, Billie Holiday, Dizzy Gillespie, Earl Hines, Thelonious Monk, Stan Kenton, Ray McKinley, Benny Goodman, Coleman Hawkins, Ella Fitzgerald, and Benny Carter.

Van Vechten Collection

The collection consists of 1,395 photographs taken by American photographer Carl Van Vechten (1880-1964) between 1932 and 1964. The bulk of the collection consists of portrait photographs of celebrities, including many figures from the Harlem Renaissance.

The Zora Neale Hurston Plays at the Library of Congress

The collection includes a selection of ten plays written by Hurston (1891-1960), author, anthropologist, and folklorist. The plays reflect Hurston's life experience, travels, and research, especially her study of folklore in the African-American South.

America's Library

Jump Back in Time: James Weldon Johnson Was Born, June 17, 1871

Jump Back in Time: Bill "Bojangles" Robinson Was Born, May 25, 1878

Jump Back in Time: Jazz Giant Louis Armstrong Was Born, August 4, 1901

Jump Back in Time: Langston Hughes Was Born, February 1, 1902

Jump Back in TIme: Mahalia Jackson Was Born, October 26, 1911

Jump Back in Time: Billie Holiday Was Born, April 7, 1915

Jump Back in Time: Ella Fitzgerald Was Born, April 25, 1918

Jump Back in Time: Novelist, Essayist, and Playwright James Baldwin Was Born, August 2, 1924

Jump Back in TIme: Leontyne Price Was Born, February 10, 1927

Jump Back in Time: Dizzy Gillespie Died, January 6, 1993

Meet Amazing Americans: Duke Ellington

Meet Amazing Americans: Langston Hughes


African-American Odyssey: World War I and Postwar Society: The Harlem Renaissance and the Flowering of American Creativity

This exhibition section from the African American Odyssey special presentation includes resources about the Harlem Renaissance.

American Treasures of the Library of Congress - Langston Hughes Requests Loan for Tuition

In 1925, Langston Hughes requested a loan from the NAACP to pay his college tuition. This is his letter and its response.

American Treasures of the Library of Congress - William H. Johnson, "Street Musicians"

William H. Johnson arrived in Harlem in1918 from Florence, South Carolina, at the onset of the Harlem Renaissance. Considered a major American artist, he attended the National Academy of Arts and studies under Charles Hawthorne.

Creative Space: Fifty Years of Robert Blackburn's Printmaking Workshop: Milieu: The Harlem Community Art Center and the WPA

This exhibition includes information about Robert Blackburn and his contribution during the Harlem Renaissance era.

Jazz Singers

This exhibit offers perspectives on the art of vocal jazz from the 1920s to the present. Drawn largely from the Library of Congress Music Division’s collections, including the photographs of William P. Gottlieb and the papers of Max Roach, Chet Baker, and Shirley Horn, among others, it features singers and song stylists from both on-stage and off.

Journeys and Crossings

Former LC Poetry specialist David Kresh discusses "Langston Hughes and His Poetry"

Prints and Photographs Division

Prints and Photographs Online Catalog (PPOC)

Find images of artists, musicians, poets, and writers who contributed to the Harlem Renaissance. Suggested search terms are: Marian Anderson, Billie Holiday, Langston Hughes, and Zora Neale Hurston.

Teachers Page

Features and Activities

Immigration... The Changing Face of America

This feature presentation introduces teachers and students to the topic of Immigration. The "Artistic Rebirth" page mentions African Americans who contributed to the Harlem Renaissance era.

Lesson Plans

Found Poetry with Primary Sources: The Great Depression

Students explore poetry using the American Life Histories: Manuscripts from the Federal Writers' Project, 1936-1940 collection of American Memory, which covers personal stories collected by the Works Progress Administration. The collection includes interviews relating to the Harlem Renaissance.

1900 America: Primary Sources and Epic Poetry

To better understand the turn-of-the-century United States, this interdisciplinary lesson integrates use of primary resources with historical and literary analysis. Students explore interviews relating to the Harlem Renassiance from the American Life Histories: Manuscripts from the Federal Writers' Project, 1936-1940 collection.

Themed Resources

Literature and Poetry

Access historic documents related to literature and poetry including selected Walt Whitman notebooks, digitized rare books, and presentations on a variety of literary figures ranging from Anne Bradstreet and Phillis Wheatley to Edgar Allan Poe and Ernest Hemingway.

Today in History

June 17, 1871

Poet, diplomat, songwriter, and anthologist of black culture James Weldon Johnson was born on June 17, 1871, in Jacksonville, Florida.

May 25, 1878

Legendary tap dancer Bill "Bojangles" Robinson was born on May 25, 1878, in Richmond, Virginia.

January 7, 1891

Novelist, folklorist, dramatist, and anthropologist Zora Neale Hurston was born on January 7, 1891, in Eatonville, Florida, the first incorporated black town in the United States.

April 29, 1899

Edward Kennedy "Duke" Ellington, often said to be America's greatest composer, bandleader, and recording artist, was born on April 29, 1899, in Washington, D.C.

February 1, 1902

Poet and writer Langston Hughes, famous for his elucidations of black American life in his poems, stories, autobiographies, and histories, was born in Joplin, Missouri, on February 1, 1902.

October 26, 1911

Mahalia Jackson, the "Queen of Gospel Song," was born in New Orleans, Louisiana.

September 28, 1912

The publication of William Christopher Handy's 'Memphis Blues' changed the course of American popular song.

April 7, 1915

Jazz singer Billie Holiday was born on April 7, 1915, in Baltimore, Maryland.

April 25, 1918

Ella Fitzgerald was born on April 25, 1918, in Newport News, Virginia.

August 2, 1924

Novelist, essayist, and playwright James Baldwin was born on August 2, 1924, in New York City

February 10, 1927

Lyric soprano Leontyne Price was born in Laurel, Mississippi.

September 2, 1935

George Gershwin completes the orchestral score of the opera Porgy and Bess.

July 10, 1941

Legendary jazz pianist and composer Jelly Roll Morton died.

January 7, 1955

Famed contralto Marian Anderson made her debut at the Metropolitan Opera in New York City on January 7, 1955 as, Ulrica in Verdi's Un ballo in maschera.

January 6, 1993

Dizzy Gillespie, the last of the primary originators of Be-Bop jazz, died in Englewood, New Jersey.

Link disclaimerExternal Web Sites

African American Sheet Music from the John Hay Library at Brown University

This collection consists of 1,305 pieces of African-American sheet music dating from 1850 through 1920. The collection includes many songs from the heyday of antebellum blackface minstrelsy in the 1850s and from the abolitionist movement of the same period. The collection includes "You can take your trunk and go to Harlem", by Joseph Hart.

Art of the Harlem Renaissance

This Web site provides an introduction to the exhibition Rhapsodies in Black: Art of the Harlem Renaissance, curated by David A. Bailey and Richard J. Powell and organized by the Hayward Gallery, London in collaboration with the Corcoran Gallery of Art, Washington D.C., and the Institute of International Visual Arts (inIVA). The Web site does not seek to be "encyclopedic" in its scope but rather seeks to provide a brief introduction to the exhibition and its critical and curatorial framework through a small selection of images and soundbites drawn primarily from the exhibition catalogue essays.

Harlem 1900-1940: An African-American Community

This exhibit, which was originally published the Schomburg Center for Black Culture, New York Public Library, in 1991 traces the history of the urban experience in Harlem's early days through graphic and photographic images.

Harlem History, from Columbia University

Harlem History presents a wealth of archival treasures and scholarship from Columbia about the history of one of the world's most famous and influential neighborhoods. Primary source material related to the Harlem Renaissance can be found under the link for “arts and culture."

Harlem Renaissance

The Public Broadcasting Service (PBS) Web site features a transcript of the February 20, 1998, television program "Harlem Renaissance" that was broadcast as part of the PBS "Newshour Forum. The program highlights an exhibit in San Francisco that explored the artistic and cultural legacies of the 1920s and 1930s. Discusses the art and culture of the Harlem Renaissance and profiles African-American artists of the period.

Selected Bibliography

Beckman, Wendy Hart. Artists and Writers of the Harlem Renaissance. Berkeley Heights, NJ: Enslow Publishers, 2002. [Catalog Record]

Bloom, Harold, ed. The Harlem Renaissance. Philadelphia: Chelsea House Publishers, 2004. [Catalog Record]

Carroll, Anne Elizabeth. Word, Image, and the New Negro: Representation and Identity in the Harlem Renaissance. Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 2005. [Catalog Record]

Jones, Sharon L. Rereading the Harlem Renaissance: Race, Class, and Gender in the Fction of Jessie Fauset, Zora Neale Hurston, and Dorothy West. Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 2002. [Catalog Record]

Krasner, David. A Beautiful Pageant: African American Theatre, Drama, and Performance in the Harlem Renaissance, 1910-1927. New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2002. [Catalog Record]

Schumacher, Julie A., ed. The Harlem Renaissance. Logan, IA: Perfection Learning, 2001. [Catalog Record]

Younger Readers

Gaines, Ann Graham. The Harlem Renaissance in American History. Berkeley Heights, NJ: Enslow Publishers, 2002. [Catalog Record]

Hardy, P. Stephen. Extraordinary People of the Harlem Renaissance. New York: Children's Press, 2000. [Catalog Record]

Haskins, Jim. Black Stars of the Harlem Renaissance. New York: Wiley, 2002. [Catalog Record]

Hudson, Cheryl Willis. The Harlem Renaissance: Profiles in Creativity. New York: Newbridge Educational Pub., 2002. [Catalog Record]

Jordan, Denise. Harlem Renaissance Artists. Chicago, IL: Heinemann Library, 2003. [Catalog Record]

Koopmans, Andy. The Harlem Renaissance. Farmington Hills, MI: Lucent Books, 2006. [Catalog Record]

Raatma, Lucia. The Harlem Renaissance: A Celebration of Creativity. Chanhassen, MN: Child’s World, 2003. [Catalog Record]

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  May 9, 2017
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