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[Detail] Portrait of Ella Fitzgerald by Carl Van Vechten

Harlem Renaissance

Like other writers of the "Lost Generation," African-American writers in the twenties also rebelled against the mainstream culture. However, their rebellion was a rejection of pressures to adopt white culture and an affirmation of pride in their own heritage. This movement, known as the Harlem Renaissance, was led by a group of writers who were living in the ghetto of Harlem, including Langston Hughes, Zora Neale Hurston, and Countee Cullen, whose portraits can be found by searching their names in this collection. Carl Van Vechten made his own contribution to this movement with his novel, Nigger Heaven, as referenced in Van Vechten's Biography. Challenge students to find portraits that express the ideals of this movement and to explain how they do so.

The collection also includes portraits of African-American writers, Richard Wright and James Baldwin, who worked in New York City in the late thirties and forties. Like many of their contemporaries, both authors lived abroad for parts of their lives. By researching these individuals, students may discover what motivated each man to move to France as well as how he contributed to the tradition of literature by African-American writers.