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Harlem Nocturne

Women Artists and Progressive Politics During World War II

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As World War II raged overseas, Harlem witnessed a battle of its own. Brimming with creative and political energy, Harlem’s diverse array of artists and activists launched a bold cultural offensive aimed at winning democracy for all Americans, regardless of race or gender. In Harlem Nocturne, esteemed scholar Farah Jasmine Griffin tells the stories of three black female artists whose creative and political efforts fueled this movement for change: novelist Ann Petry, a major new literary voice; choreographer and dancer Pearl Primus, a pioneer in her field; and composer and pianist Mary Lou Williams, a prominent figure in the emergence of Be-Bop. As Griffin shows, these women made enormous strides for social justice during the war, laying the groundwork for the Civil Rights Movement before the Cold War temporarily froze their democratic dreams.

A rich account of three distinguished artists and the city that inspired them, Harlem Nocturne captures a period of unprecedented vitality and progress for African Americans and women in the United States.

Publishers Weekly Review

Jul 01, 2013 – Griffin’s triptych focuses on dancer Pearl Primus, writer Ann Petry, and musician Mary Lou Williams—African-American political activists and artists who were innovative and influential during the 1940s, the era of the Double Victory Campaign (Victory at Home and Abroad), as black Americans “fought not only overseas for their country but also to be recognized as citizens at home.” Devoting a section to each artist, Columbia University professor Griffin provides biographical details and a discerning assessment of particular works, among them Primus’s “Strange Fruit,” Petry’s The Street, Williams’s Zodiac Suite, and delineates their historical, social, and personal milieu. In placing the women’s artistic endeavors squarely in the context of their political activities in the midst of the Double V Campaign, Griffin adds a fresh and provocative perspective to their creative work, but the book bursts at the seams. There’s almost a whole history of Harlem, as well as a who’s who of friends, husbands, employers, and contemporaries of the primary subjects (Katherine Dunham, Dinah Washington, Benjamin Davis, and others). Still, the book constitutes a giant step to securing the place all three subjects merit in American cultural history. Fully accessible to general readers, it will be mined by future scholars.
Harlem Nocturne
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  • $17.99
  • Available on iPhone, iPad, iPod touch, and Mac.
  • Category: United States
  • Published: Sep 10, 2013
  • Publisher: Basic Books
  • Seller: The Perseus Books Group, LLC
  • Print Length: 256 Pages
  • Language: English
  • Requirements: To view this book, you must have an iOS device with iBooks 1.3.1 or later and iOS 4.3.3 or later, or a Mac with iBooks 1.0 or later and OS X 10.9 or later.

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