What was the Harlem Renaissance?
The author of “Thank You, M’am,” Langston Hughes, is one of several African
Americans whose artistic and intellectual talents were recognized during a period
in history known as the Harlem Renaissance. Spanning the decade of the 1920s,
the Harlem Renaissance began when blacks living in the heart of New York City,
Manhattan, fled to the northern reaches of the city to escape rising real estate costs
and racial tensions. The northern end of the city was known as Harlem, and this
two-square-mile neighborhood became the epicenter of a cultural explosion among African Americans.
In Harlem, African Americans, after years of oppression, found their voice and shared their stories through music, dance, art, theater, and literature. People like Duke Ellington, Josephine Baker, Countee Cullen, Louie Armstrong, Langston Hughes, Aaron Douglas, and Sarah Vaughn became well-known both inside and
outside Harlem as these individuals—and many other literary, musical, and visual artists—fostered pride in the African-American culture and experience.
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