Don't forget these women writers of the Harlem Renaissance


The Harlem Renaissance was a period of blossoming African American culture and creative arts based in the Black neighborhood of Harlem in New York City. Its most famous participants include writers and thinkers like W.E.B. Du Bois, Langston Hughes, and Alain Locke— but it wasn’t only male creatives who flourished. Here are just a few women writers of the Harlem Renaissance: Nella Larsen’s two novels, Quicksand and Passing, both grapple with sexuality, societal expectation, and colorism. In 1930, Larsen became the first Black woman to be awarded a Guggenheim Fellowship. One of few Harlem Renaissance writers to never live in New York City, poet Anne Spencer connected with other writers by opening her Virginia home as a safe space for Black travellers. She published 30 poems in her lifetime and, in 1973, became the first Black woman to have poetry featured in the Norton Anthology of Modern Poetry. Alice Dunbar Nelson was a major voice in Black literature since the publication of her first book in 1895. Beginning in the 1920s, her prolific reviews of other Harlem Renaissance writers and artists’ work earned her nationwide recognition. The first Black student to join the Drama and Literary societies at her Brooklyn, New York, high school, Gwendolyn Bennett was an early entrant into Harlem Renaissance society. Bennett was a professor, editor, and a prolific poet whose writing appeared in nearly all the prominent Black publications of her time. In the 1970s, novelist Alice Walker reintroduced Americans to the work of Zora Neale Hurston, a significant novelist of the Harlem Renaissance. Walker found and identified Hurston’s previously unmarked grave, lauded her work in The New York Times, and gave the literary world a much-needed reminder: Zora Neale Hurston likely wasn’t the only genius Black woman they had left behind.