Literary Timeline of the Harlem Renaissance

Langston Hughes leaning over records on a couch.

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The Harlem Renaissance is a period in American history marked by an explosion of expression by African-American and Caribbean writers, visual artists and musicians.

Established and supported by organizations such as the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) and the National Urban League (NUL), Harlem Renaissance artists explored themes such as legacy, racism, oppression, alienation, rage, hope and pride through the creation of novels, essays, plays, and poetry.

In its 20-year span, Harlem Renaissance writers created an authentic voice for African-Americans that showed their humanity and desire for equality in the United States' society.


  • Asa Philip Randolph and Chandler Owen co-found the political and literary magazine, The Messenger.


  • Writer and educator Jessie Redmon Fauset becomes the literary editor of the NAACP's publication, The Crisis.


  • Claude McKay publishes his first volume of poetry, Harlem Shadows. The collection is considered the first major text of the Harlem Renaissance.
  • James Weldon Johnson's anthology, Book of American Negro Poetry, is published.​


  • Jean Toomer's Cane is published.
  • The NUL establishes the journal, Opportunity. Charles S. Johnson serves as the journal's editor.


  • As editor of Opportunity, Johnson hosts a dinner at the Civic Club in New York City. This dinner is considered the official launching of the Harlem Renaissance.


  • The literary magazine, Survey Graphic, publishes a special issue, Harlem: Mecca of the New Negro. The issue is edited by Alain Locke.
  • Color, Countee Cullen's first collection of poetry is published.


  • Locke edits the anthology, The New Negro. The collection is an expanded version of Survey Graphic's, Harlem issue.
  • Langston Hughes publishes his first book of poetry, The Weary Blues.
  • The short-lived literary and artistic magazine, Fire!! is published. Hughes, Wallace Thurman, Zora Neale Hurston, Aaron Douglas, and Richard Bruce Nugent are founding editors of the magazine.
  • White writer Carl Van Vechten publishes Nigger Heaven.


  • James Weldon Johnson's collection of poems, God's Trombones, inspired by sermons of African-American preachers is published.


  • McKay publishes his first novel, Home to Harlem. The text becomes the first bestselling novel by an African-American author.


  • Thurman publishes his first novel, The Blacker the Berry.


  • Hughes' novel, Not Without Laughter, is published.
  • Journalist George Schuyler publishes the satirical novel, Black No More.


  •  Sterling Brown's collection of poetry, Southern Road, is published.


Public Works Administration (PWA) and Works Progress Administration (WPA) are established. Both agencies provide jobs to many African-American artists, such as Hurston.


  • Hurston's second novel, Their Eyes Were Watching God, is published. The novel is considered the last novel of the Harlem Renaissance.
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Lewis, Femi. "Literary Timeline of the Harlem Renaissance." ThoughtCo, Apr. 5, 2023, Lewis, Femi. (2023, April 5). Literary Timeline of the Harlem Renaissance. Retrieved from Lewis, Femi. "Literary Timeline of the Harlem Renaissance." ThoughtCo. (accessed June 1, 2023).