Harlem Stomp! A Cultural History of the Harlem Renaissance
2004 Finalist for the National Book Award for Young People's Literature
Additional Awards and Honors Below
Essay: The African American Century
By Laban Carrick Hill
Imagine an America without African American music. Without hip hop. Without even Justin Timberlake since not only Timberlake’s influences are deeply rooted in black culture, but also his record producers and songwriters are African American. An America without blacks is a place without Rock and Roll. Without Jazz. Without essentially any truly American music.
Now, imagine a sports world without African Americans. Without Michael Jordan. Without Barry Bonds. Without Michael Vick. Without Jesse Owens. Without Jackie Robinson. Without Mohamed Ali. Without “Float like a butterfly and sting like a bee.” How about movies without Spike Lee, Denzel Washington, Chris Rock, and Sidney Poitier. Theater without August Wilson. And Politics without Martin Luther King, Jr., Jesse Jackson, Thurgood Marshall, Malcolm X…even Al Sharpton.
The writer Ralph Ellison wrote in his essay “What America Would be Like Without Blacks” that “…whatever else the true American is, he is also somehow black.” Try to imagine the 20th Century without African Americans. Scholars Henry Louis Gates, Jr., and Cornell West have gone so far as to call the 20th Century the African American Century.
American life is inconceivable without its black presence. And if Gates and West are right and the 20th Century IS the Black Century, then the 1920s is the coming age for African Americans in that century. In the 1920s Harlem was hoppin’ and stompin’. The poet Arna Bontemps described the feeling, “In Harlem, it was like a foretaste of paradise. A blue haze descended at night and with it strings of fairy lights on the broad avenues.” The poet Countee Cullen characterized the spirit of the era in his poem “Harlem Wine.”
This is not water running here,
These thick rebellious streams
That hurtle flesh and bone past fear
Down alleyways of dreams.
This is a wine that must flow on
Not caring how or where,
So it has ways to flow upon
Where song is in the air.
So it can woo an artful flute
With loose, elastic lips,
Its measurements of joy compute
With blithe, ecstatic hips.
The energy, writing, music and dance of the Harlem Renaissance are like no other period in American history. It celebrates not only a race, but all of America.
Awards and Honors
2004 National Book Award Finalist
2004 Parent’s Choice Gold Award
2004 Bookbinder’s Guild New York Book Fair First Prize
2005 Notable Social Studies Trade Books for Young People
Capitol Choices: Noteworthy Books for Children 2005
2005 Notable Book for a Global Society
2005 International Reading Association Teacher's Choice
2005 James Madison Book Award Nominee
2005 New York Public Library Books for the Teen Age
Chicago Public Library Best Books 2005
Iowa Public Library Best Book for 2004
Voices of Young Adults Poetry Pick 2003
Notable Social Studies Trade Books 2005
Gustavus Myers Honor Book
Black Issues Book Review Best Books 2004
San Francisco Chronicle Best Books 2004
School Library Journal Best Book of the Year 2004
Publishers Weekly Best Book of the Year 2004
American Library Association Best Books for Young Adults 2005 Nominee
Young Adult School Library Association Quick Picks for Reluctant Readers Nominee
Booklist 2004 Summer Pick
Junior Library Guild Selection
American Library Association Annotated Book Selection 2004
Children's Literature Choice Selection 2005
Reading Circle Selection 2005
PBS TeacherSource Recommendation
--George C. Wolfe, writer, director, and producer of the Public Theater, NYC
--from the Introduction
4. Middle Grade Series