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Wendy Hart Beckman

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Category: 

Biography

Publisher:  Enslow Publishers, Inc. ISBN-10:  0766018342 Type: 
Pages: 

112

Copyright:  2002
Non-Fiction

In this illustrated selection author Wendy Hart Beckman provides encapsulated biographies of ten artists who participated in the Harlem Renaissance. In each instance Ms. Beckman provides a careful outline of the artist's background, development, contributions, and later life. This is a good reference tool for readers with an interest in African-American history or specifically Black artists of this era. The Harlem Renaissance was a significant movement in American culture and Ms. Beckman does well to offer readers a summary of some of the leading lights of that period.
Description from Children's Literature

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Enslow Publishers

"The Harlem Renaissance could be described as a series of circles. At the core was a group of older African Americans from the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, the National Urban League and various universities and journals. This inner group was led by W.E.B. Du Bois (NAACP), James Weldon Johnson (NAACP), Charles S. Johnson (NUL), and Alain Leroy Locke (Howard University). Circling outside this inner group were the writers and artists who represented the young heart and soul of the New Negro movement. This circle was made up of Langston Hughes, Zora Neale Hurston, Jessie Fauset, Wallace Thurman, and others. Then the outer circle was made up of other artists who took part at various times, but were not pivotal to the movement. This outer circle included people like Josephine Baker, Jean Toomer, and Claude McKay. The rings pulsed and rippled out to touch more than just Harlem, more than just New York City.
The Harlem Renaissance did not have definite start and end points. Historian David Levering Lewis states that 1917 was the “natal” year of the Renaissance. Others mark it as 1921, when Shuffle Along premiered. The Renaissance was dwindling at the start of the 1930s, as the Depression was hurting the nation and prohibition was ending. The Harlem Riot of March 1935 sealed the fate of the Harlem Renaissance."
from Artists and Writers of the Harlem Renaissance, Enslow Publishers, Inc., 2002
Copyright 2002 Wendy Hart Beckman




Professional Reviews

Children's Literature
Harlem, New York was the setting for a cultural upsurge in the 1920's and 1930's. During those decades a series of Black writers, artists, vocalists, and poets sprang forth and gave voice to the conditions of African-Americans. At a time when racial prejudice was even more overt than in our own age, it took great courage for Black artists to stand up and honestly portray their lot in America. Artists such as Langston Hughes, Bessie Smith, Duke Ellington, and Josephine Baker all provided a unique expression to what it meant to be a Black person either living in America or with American roots. This artistic movement came to be known as the Harlem Renaissance and that is the subject covered in this collection of short biographies. In this illustrated selection author Wendy Hart Beckman provides encapsulated biographies of ten artists who participated in the Harlem Renaissance. In each instance Ms. Beckman provides a careful outline of the artist's background, development, contributions, and later life. This is a good reference tool for readers with an interest in African-American history or specifically Black artists of this era. The Harlem Renaissance was a significant movement in American culture and Ms. Beckman does well to offer readers a summary of some of the leading lights of that period.





School Library Journal
BECKMAN, Wendy Hart. Artists and Writ-

ers of the Harlem Renaissance. 112p. (Col-

lective Biographies Series). photos. re-

prods. further reading. index. notes. Web

sites. CIP. Enslow. 2002. PLB $20.95.

ISBN 0-7660-1834-2. LC 200100l309.

Gr 7-10-The array of individuals collected in

this book reflects the diverse creative areas

that came together in tile cultural flourishing

of the African-American community in New

York City in the early 20th century. Following

a brief introduction to the Harlem Renais-

sance, 10 poets, musicians, dancers, essayists,

and novelists are introduced in 8- or 9-page

chapters, each one illustrated with two black-

and-white photographs. Bessie Smith, Duke

Ellington, Langston Hughes, and Josephine

Baker are among those included; informa-

tion on all of the people is readily available

elsewhere, but this is a serviceable introduc-

tion to the topic.-Janet Woodward, Garfield

High School, Seattle, WA



Ohioana Quarterly
"Enslow publishes educational nonfiction book series exclusively for kindergarten through high school students. The subjects of these series are varied, providing a wide range of topics to interest any child at any age. Sports and science, art and math, health and human rights are just some of the many themes discussed, explored, and questioned by various authors. Therefore, it only seems natural that two books from the same publishing house, written by different authors, analyzing disparate subjects are reviewed side by sids.
Artists and Writers of the Harlem Renaissance is a continuation of the Collective Biographies series that also includes American Tycoons and Holocaust Rescuers: Ten Stories of Courage.
Wendy Hart Beckman, a freelance writer based in Cincinnati, presents a brief but informative history of the Harlem Renaissance that is sure to not only entertain but also enlighten its intended audience of junior-high and high-school-age children. Beckman wastes no time delineating the importance of the Harlem Renaissance, which took place in the 1920s and 1930s. She precisely incorporates Renaissance Writer Sterling Brown's 'five themes animating the movement: (1) Africa as a source of race pride, (2) black American heroes, (3) racial political propaganda, (4) the black folk tradition, and (5) candid self-revelation.' Instantly children, unaware or not of the Harlem Renaissance, are thrust into its existence, its meaning.
In further investigate these themes, Beckman has profiled ten important figures of the Renaissance, including Ohio poet Langston Hughes. The lives of controversial singer Bessie Smith, much adored Duke Ellington, and Renaissance historian Arna Bontemps offer students insight into their impact on the era and the resulting black cultural revolution. Beckman does not obfuscate the harsh reality of these artists' lives -- their sacrifice and uphill climb -- with tales of happy endings and complete acceptance. She tells of Smith's death from a car accident and the rumors that Smith bled to death because the nearest hospital would not treat blacks. Beckman relates the deaths of Zora Neale Hurston, buried in an unmarked grave, and Josephine Baker, feted with a state funeral in Paris attended by more than 20,000 people. These artists brought the African-American culture to the masses, in Europe and in the United States, opening the door for such later figures as Maya Angelou and Nat King Cole.


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