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Cover image for Harlem stomp! : a cultural history of the Harlem Renaissance
Harlem stomp! : a cultural history of the Harlem Renaissance
1st ed.
Publication Information:
New York : Little, Brown, c2003.
Physical Description:
151 p. : ill. (some col.) ; 29 cm.
Song of smoke; the smoldering Black consciousness, 1900-1910 -- Moving out, fighting back; the great migration, organizing for freedom, and World War I, 1911-1920 -- Black metropolis; the rise of Harlem, 1900-1920 -- Dam breaking; Jean Toomer, Claude McKay, and opportunity in the arts, 1921-1924 -- Fire!!; an explosion of creativity -- Stompin' at the Savoy; music and dance of the Renaissance -- Heritage unbound; Blacks and the American theater -- Against all odds; visual artists and their struggle for recognition -- Rage in the streets; the waning of the Renaissance and the beginning of the Harlem riots.
Reading Level:
1270 L Lexile
A whirlwind tour of the Harlem Renaissance era of the early 20th century.


Material Type
Call Number
Item Available
Book Q J 810.9 HIL 1 1

On Order



The first book to bring the Harlem Renaissance alive for young adults, this meticulously researched and lavishly illustrated book is a veritable time capsule, packed with poetry, prose, photographs, full-colour paintings and historical documents. It chronicles the work of prominent Harlem Renaissance artists, activists and writers, including Langston Hughes, Zora Neal Hurston, Sargent Johnson and Marcus Garvey. A rich exploration of one of the most important and exciting periods in American cultural history. Ages 12 and up.

Author Notes

Laban Carrick Hill has been researching the Harlem Renaissance for more than a decade. The author of nearly twenty novels for young adults, he has also taught writing at Columbia University, Baruch College, and St. Michael's College in Vermont. His poems have been included in the Contemporary Poetry of New England anthology and in numerous literary magazines, including the Tar River Review, the Denver Quarterly, and American Letters and Commentary

Reviews 5

Publisher's Weekly Review

This energetic, elegantly designed volume documents the artistic, literary and musical surge of black culture in Harlem from 1900 to 1924, presenting the events and personalities that led to both its ascension and decline. Hill first introduces the pivotal opposing points of view of the time, that of Booker T. Washington-born into slavery, who "strongly supported the principle of nonconfrontation"-and W.E.B. Du Bois, born free, whose ideas were considered "radical" and who believed that "the Negro race must be made leaders of thought and missionaries of culture among their people." The author then weaves in other voices, solo and in groups, and brief bios of lesser-known heroes (such as Sgt. Henry Johnson, an African-American and the first American soldier-black or white-in WWI to receive the Croix de Guerre; and pioneering editor and educator Charles Spurgeon Johnson). Hill sets the backdrop for the Great Migration of blacks from South to North (illustrated with the first of Jacob Lawrence's Migration Series paintings) and explores the effects of a glut of Harlem housing which led to the settlement of African-Americans there. Sidebars highlight such issues as the "Negro Scare" racket, a real estate strategy that exploited whites' fears of black encroachment into white residential areas. A generous helping of primary source material brings the era to life in the voices of the dynamic people who made it flourish, including the poems of Langston Hughes, sheet music for "Lift Ev'ry Voice and Sing," advertisements and excerpts from news stories. The inviting design makes use of blocks of jazzy colors, mod type and a smattering of period illustrations (by the likes of Aaron Douglas and others). Hill also shines light on everyday rituals, such as the practice of strolling down the Harlem boulevards, the importance of churches and the flourishing of jazz clubs (such as the famous Cotton Club). The book closes with the stock market crash's devastating effects on the Harlem Renaissance; the resulting Great Depression caused five times more unemployment in Harlem than in other parts of the city and led to an exodus of many of its leaders. This compelling history will leave readers familiar or unfamiliar with this high-flying period eager to discover more. Ages 12-up. (Jan.) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved

Horn Book Review

While focusing on the writers, painters, musicians, and performers of the Harlem Renaissance, this book ranges widely across early twentieth-century African-American history. Much information and some good reproductions of artworks are here, but the text is clumsily written and repetitive, and the overuse of boxes, borders, insets, patterned backgrounds, and color blocks makes for a feverish design. Bib., ind. (c) Copyright 2010. The Horn Book, Inc., a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted. All rights reserved.

Booklist Review

Gr. 7-12. In the 1920s, Harlem was hot! With a beautiful open design, this illustrated history combines the politics of the black metropolis in the roaring 1920s with long, detailed chapters on the blazing creativity of performers, writers, visual artists, and intellectuals. Many readers will dip into pages that interest them. Others will appreciate the big picture, including the facts about the great migration from the South, the continuing racism, the debate concerning how blacks should win equal rights, and the call to get beyond sentimentality and propaganda. We know we are beautiful. And ugly, too, Langston Hughes wrote in his groundbreaking essay The Weary Blues, which is printed here in full, along with many other great selections from literature and journalism. The spacious pages are wonderful for browsing, with colored screens and reproductions of beautiful portraits, paintings, and neighborhood photos, many of them full page. Occasionally the text is dull. The biographies of Hughes and Zora Neale Hurston, for example, are little more than dutiful chronologies; far livelier are discussions of their works, which show how the writers changed the view of blacks--and changed America. The lengthy bibliography is excellent, but, unfortunately, there is no documentation of particular quotes. --Hazel Rochman Copyright 2004 Booklist

School Library Journal Review

Gr 7 Up-Hill explains the violence, frustration, and dreams of economic opportunity that led to the African-American migration to the North at the beginning of the 20th century. He describes the sense of pride, responsibility, and rights engendered by participation in World War I and the white resentment that resulted in such violence that James Weldon Johnson "dubbed the summer of 1919 the `Red Summer'" in response to the bloodshed. The author discusses why blacks settled in Harlem and how it became the "Mecca of the New Negro," attracting the likes of Langston Hughes, Jean Toomer, and Claude McKay. Also highlighted are publications such as the National Urban League's Opportunity: A Journal of Negro Life, which not only supplied forums for these writers but also attempted to generate income for them and provide a sense of racial identity. Music, theater, and the visual arts are also covered. The book contains aspects of everyday culture, too, such as the role of churches, funeral processions, and rent parties. Numerous quotes from speeches, poems, articles, and other works are included. The volume is a visual feast, packed with contemporary photographs, reproductions, magazine covers, and posters, and enhanced by an interesting graphic design. Together, the words and images bring this extraordinary period to life. Pair it with James Haskins's The Harlem Renaissance (Millbrook, 1996), which remains the more in-depth textual overview.-Joanne K. Cecere, Monroe-Woodbury High School, Central Valley, NY (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

Kirkus Review

As Nikki Giovanni says in her foreword, the Harlem Renaissance was "an American people redefining this great American nation." The rich cultural life of Harlem in the 1920s included the poetry of Langston Hughes, the photography of James VanDerZee, the painting of Aaron Douglas and William H. Johnson, the vocal performances of Paul Robeson. Harlem was the Jazz Age--Louis Armstrong, Duke Ellington, the Savoy Ballroom. This volume, clearly a labor of love, is a visual treat, from the cover art by Christopher Myers to the pages chock full of period photographs and artwork of the age. The narrative voice, though, is inconsistent, sometimes affecting the ebullient language of the "hoppin'" nightclubs and the "white hepcat from downtown," at other times sounding dry as an old textbook. The big bibliography doesn't reflect the wealth of resources available for young readers, but the volume offers much for browsers and young researchers. (index, credits) (Nonfiction. 12+) Copyright ©Kirkus Reviews, used with permission.

Table of Contents

Forewordp. 2
1 Song of Smoke: The Smoldering Black Consciousness, 1900-1910p. 4
2 Moving Out, Fighting Back: The Great Migration, Organizing for Freedom, and World War I, 1911-1920p. 14
3 Black Metropolis: The Rise of Harlem, 1900-1920p. 32
4 The Dam Breaking: Jean Toomer, Claude McKay, and Opportunity in the Arts, 1921-1924p. 44
5 Fire!!: An Explosion of Creativityp. 54
6 Dark Tower: A Social Breakthroughp. 74
7 Stompin' at the Savoy: Music and Dance of the Renaissancep. 90
8 Heritage Unbound: Blacks and the American Theaterp. 102
9 Against All Odds: Visual Artists and Their Struggle for Recognitionp. 114
10 Rage in the Streets: The Waning of the Renaissance and the Beginning of the Harlem Riotsp. 126
Bibliographyp. 137
Indexp. 143
Creditsp. 148
Biographiesp. 151
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