Art of the Soul Men

Alex Barker on Harlem's cultural heyday.

It was to Harlem in New York that African American artists, writers and musicians came in the 1920s, its streets becoming a centre for fashion, entertainment and nightlife, as well as providing a safe haven from the segregation and racial persecution of the southern states of America. This dynamic fusion brought about by the mass migration of black Americans from the South to the cities of the North such as New York, Washington and Chicago, was to provide the inspiration and cultural milieu in which the painters and photographers of what is known as the 'Harlem Renaissance' flourished. This encompassed both black and white artists such as Jacob Lawrence, Lois Mailou Jones and Winold Reiss, whose works are among those currently celebrated in an exhibition at the Hayward Gallery in London.

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