The early 1920s and 1930s in New York City's Harlem neighborhood saw a surge of cultural activity that produced many notable artists, authors, musicians, dancers, playwrights as well as powerful intellectuals. The migration of African Americans from the rural south created a highly charged atmosphere of promise and activity, and created a period known as the Harlem Renaissance.
A great deal of interest and attention was placed on African American culture during this time, and though centered on New York, it created a widespread movement. For the first time in American history, African Americans could openly express their cultural pride and unique heritage. There were art exhibitions created as venues specifically for emerging talents in painting and sculpture, and these were usually organized by the Harmon Foundation.
Key figures in the Harlem Renaissance art scene included men and women as well as a fair share of artist/scholars who made intensive study of their heritage and the place of the artists in contemporary society. The most well known of the group was Aaron Douglas, whose illustrations, paintings and murals were prized for their unique use of symbols and motifs as well as silhouette and geometric shapes to depict African American subjects.
Other artists active in the Harlem Renaissance were sculptress Augusta Christine Savage, painters Jacob Armstead Lawrence, James A. Porter, Charles Henry Alston, and David Clyde Driskell.