How the Harmon Foundation Played a Pivotal Role in Supporting the Artists of the Harlem Renaissance

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During the 1920s and ’30s, a cohort of Black artists, writers, and intellectuals, many of whom were based in Harlem, ushered in what was then known as the New Negro Movement. Today, the Harlem Renaissance is renowned for its reputation of ushering in the New Negro, and the movement is currently the subject of a major survey at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York.

Largely championed by Howard University professor and philosopher Alain Locke via his seminal anthology of the same name, the New Negro Movement put Harlem on the map for its influence on Black art and culture. But it has long been historicized as predominantly a writer’s movement, with some of its preeminent members including Langston Hughes, Countee Cullen, and Zora Neale Hurston.

The visual arts of the Harlem Renaissance are generally lesser known to the public primarily because Black artists at the time were not exhibited in mainstream museums and galleries. Often, they were shown at high schools, homes, libraries, YMCAs, and art schools and Historically Black Colleges and Universities. But a shift happened when Locke encouraged real estate tycoon William H. Harmon to philanthropically support the artwork of Black artists. Though there were opportunities and awards for Black artists that predate Harmon’s largesse, the Harmon Foundation, through its exhibitions and awards, notably made a profound, if still underknown, impact on Black visual ...


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How the Harmon Foundation Played a Pivotal Role in Supporting the Artists of the Harlem Renaissance