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The Harlem Renaissance in the American West

In the following article historians Bruce Glasrud and Cary Wintz discuss their new book, The Harlem Renaissance in the American West which argues that the literary and artistic outpouring by African Americans during the third decade of the 20th Century was a national phenomenon which included the American West.   

During the 1990s, Bruce Glasrud spent considerable time, together with co-editor Laurie Champion seeking African American fiction set in the West. They discovered a remarkable trove of short stories that were published in 2000 as The African American West: A Century of Short Stories. In the process, Glasrud noticed that a number of prominent (or sometimes forgotten) black authors who wrote stories connected to themes, time, and spirit of the Harlem Renaissance. He began to suggest that there was a Harlem Renaissance in the West. Concurrently, Harlem Renaissance scholar Cary D. Wintz began arguing that the understanding of the Harlem Renaissance could greatly be energized and understood by examining other cities such as Chicago, Philadelphia, Boston, and Washington D.C. where this emerging cultural activity took place, and by examining music, the visual arts and other creative forms beyond literature. At one conference where Glasrud discussed the Renaissance in the West, Wintz agreed that it might be significant, and said to Glasrud: “let’s do something about it.” We decided to do just that.

We also agreed that we would need a decade to do all the original research and writing to complete such a book ourselves. We decided instead to contact scholars in the field of the black west and solicit their advice and hopefully their scholarship. We succeeded, and convinced thirteen authors to write chapters on the Harlem Renaissance in urban centers in the American West. We wrote the Introduction as well as the chapter on “The Black Renaissance in the Desert Southwest.” In it we pointed out the significance of the first black woman novelist, Lillian Jones Horace, and Anita Scott Coleman, who from her home in

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