The term Harlem renaissance is so commonplace in the books of history that even the most superficial reader knows it, and exactly what it means. Essentially, Harlem renaissance, commonly referred to as the New Negro Movement back in the 1920s was a cultural movement that was adopted by the African Americans that prominently resided in the modest Harlem neighborhood on the New York City. The renaissance, or the new Negro Movement as it was commonly referred to back in the day, was a culture spearheaded by the elite I society – the artists and the intellectuals from various professions. Notably, artists and authors were the most prominent pioneers of the movement, especially considering the fact that the works of such pronounced writers as Rudolf Fisher had a powerful impact on society. This paper seeks to explain the manner in which the situation described by Fisher in his story, The Caucasian Storms Harlem, impacted on the artists of the day.
The Caucasian Storms Harlem is an illusion story written in first person by Rudolf Fisher. The persona in the story is an individual that is coming back to Harlem after five years – a period over which many changes have taken place in the entertainment spots around the neighborhood. The persona is nostalgic. He explains the state of the night clubs before his departure. What he observes upon his return is a total contrast. He notices that the clubs, which were formerly associated with prominent black presence, are currently white entertainment spots. He sadly notes that save for the nightclub workers and the members of the bands, he is the only black patron. He explains how the whites are fascinated about the Harlem clubs such as Connie’s Inn, The Cotton Club, Lybia and Edmonds (Pg. 393). Obviously, Fisher expresses disgust at the fact that the black entertainers are there to make the whites happy. Despite of this annoying thought, Fisher acknowledges that the White fascination of Harlem made the New Negro Movement successful.
Apparently, the situation described by Rudolf Fisher affected the artists both positively and negatively, but more positively than negatively. How, one may wonder. Rudolf says “And so we were robbed of our favorite resorts, and thereafter became mere rounders” (pg. 394). This meant that the whites were the main patrons at the nightclubs. They had taken over even the most preferred clubs such as Oriental. This impacted positively on the artists, and more so the musicians and the artists. Their names began hitting the headlines and becoming part of the buzz. Rudolf Fisher speaks of Ethel waters, a female musician who inspired and entertained many. The author prominently cites her works, especially the song “tryin’ to teach my good man right from wrong” and “shake that thing” (pg. 394). The level of ownership with which Rudolf speaks of Ethel Waters says a lot. It says the much African Americans were proud of her and other artists. It also tells of the powerful influence that the artists had on their listeners. They were moving not only the blacks of Harlem, but also the whites of New York.
The situation described by Rudolf brought the artists into the spotlight. Ethel Waters, Aubrey Lyles and Flournoy Miller are among the most prominently mentioned artists. They hit the limelight with such prominence that they attracted the attention of the whites. This boosted the self esteem of the black artists and intellectuals. It made them realize that they could change the society and that they could bring change. This situation taught the intellectuals such as fisher himself that there was need for change. They felt that the whites were invading Harlem and that their fascination was not as much welcome. This pushed the artists into composing works with powerful messages. Such works as the Shuffle Along, composed and written by Lyles and Miller conveyed strong messages (pg. 396). The fact that the whites were fascinated about Harlem actually empowered the artists.
This situation of whites ‘storming’ Harlem is one among the key factors that made the Renaissance artists feel accepted. The community of blacks considered the artists part of the elite. On the other hand, the whites accepted them as great entertainers. This cut a niche for the artists. They became members of a social class worth recognition – the elite. From this position, they could effortlessly reach out to the rest of the community through writing, singing, acting, and even drawing. Fisher prominently praises Florence Miler and refers to her as successful (pg. 396). The success attained by such artists as Miller is not only associated with their artistic works but also to their social and economic status. Miller for example is described by Fisher as a lady that was not only successful in her career but also in such heavy and significant investments as the real estate. Summarily, the illusion situation described by Rudolf Fisher is a factor that plunged the artists of the renaissance period into a state of being exploited, but seeing viable prospects for the future, as far as the black-white social imbalance was concerned.
Fisher, Rudolf. The Caucasian Storms Harlem. New York: John Wiley and Sons, 2010. Print