The literary movement that so many refer to as the “Harlem Renaissance” remains contested terrain and the need to periodize and name the movement is ongoing. As the literary production of the New Negro era came to a close, participants in the literary movement such as Zora Neale Hurston, Sterling Brown, Wallace Thurman, James Weldon Johnson, Dorothy West, Arna Bontemps, Langston Hughes, Alain Locke, W. E. B. Du Bois, Charles S. Johnson and others gave different accounts of its value, its beginnings, and its end. Subsequently, historians and literary scholars, as well as New Negro Movement participants, have found very little consensus on key questions of periodization. This essay returns to the question of periodizing this movement by identifying a broad range of its distinguishing characteristics and by bracketing its duration, although with a clear recognition that the temporal frame and characteristics may be re-positioned yet again. The project here is not to determine the perceived failure or success of the literary movement or the collective quality of the literary production, a project that would involve determining by whose standards of success, failure, or quality such judgments would be made. This study of the New Negro era expands its boundaries and opens a space for engaging the literary movement by mapping it in ways that scholars too often have deemphasized or have not explored.


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pp. 488-524
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