The Harlem Renaissance at 100: Perspectives and Possibilities

The 2020s mark the centennial of the Harlem Renaissance, a legendary flourishing of African American intellectual and cultural expression that catapulted Langston Hughes, Zora Neale Hurston, Aaron Douglas, and other writers, artists, musicians, and activists into national and international prominence. On Thursday, January 27 and Friday, January 28, 2022, the Wolfsonian Public Humanities Lab and The Wolfsonian—FIU will host a series of events to observe the centennial of this important movement and to explore its ongoing legacy.

“The Harlem Renaissance at 100” builds on—and celebrates the launch of—The Harlem Renaissance: Origins, Influences, and Currents, a digital exhibition curated by Dr. Shawn Christian and Dr. Nathaniel Cadle, associate professors of English at FIU. This exhibition, a collaboration between the WPHL and The Wolfsonian—FIU, is available free online and showcases a trove of valuable print materials recently donated to The Wolfsonian, including rare first editions of books by Hughes, Hurston, and others, often with striking dust jackets designed by Douglas and Miguel Covarrubias. As the United States continues to grapple with the demand for equity, inclusion, and social justice, the art and ideas generated during the Harlem Renaissance remain as relevant as ever.

Programming hosted in conjunction with “The Harlem Renaissance at 100” will include:

  • a creative writing workshop, in which participants use the writings of Langston Hughes and Georgia Douglas Johnson as models for their own protest poetry
  • an art activation, in which participants can draw from the work of Aaron Douglas and Miguel Covarrubias to create their own art
  • a panel of experts discussing the literary, artistic, musical, and historical significance and legacy of the Harlem Renaissance
  • a performance by students in FIU’s School of Music highlighting music produced during the Harlem Renaissance
  • a screening of Isaac Julien’s 1989 film Looking for Langston
  • a guest lecture delivered by Dr. Adrienne Brown, associate professor at the University of Chicago and author of The Black Skyscraper: Architecture and the Perception of Race


The Wolfsonian-FIU


FIU’s Department of English
The Humanities Edge: An MDC-FIU Pathway Partnership


Schedule of Events

Thursday, January 27, Florida International University, MMC

Location: Green Library 220
  • 1:00PM–2:00 PM | Creative Writing Activation

    Leader:Dr. Donna Aza Weir-Soley, English

    One of the enduring legacies of the Harlem Renaissance is its poetry, which often merged concerns for style and form with social and political protest in innovative ways. This workshop will prompt participants to write their own protest poetry, drawing inspiration from the work of Langston Hughes, Georgia Douglas Johnson, Claude McKay, and Angelina Weld Grimke as well as what historians call “the long civil rights movement.” Leading the workshop will be Donna Aza Weir-Soley, Associate Professor of English at FIU and author of such scholarly works as Eroticism, Spirituality, and Resistance in Black Women’s Writings and such poetry books as The Woman Who Knew and First Rain.

  • 2:00PM–3:00PM | Visual Art Activation

    Leader: Octavia Yearwood

    Often regarded as the signature artist of the Harlem Renaissance and the father of Black American art, Aaron Douglas illustrated and designed the dust jackets for many iconic books, including God’s Trombones, Home to Harlem, and The Blacker the Berry. Under the guidance of Miami-based artist, curator, and author Octavia Yearwood, participants will have the opportunity to create their own art based on Douglas’ striking visual imagery. All skill levels welcome.

  • 3:00PM–3:30PM | Guided Viewing of Harlem Renaissance print materials

    Guide:Dr. Frank Luca, The Wolfsonian–FIU

    See first editions of books by Harlem Renaissance authors, with their beautifully designed dust jackets created by leading artists of the 1920s and 30s, as well as other historically and culturally significant print materials. Frank Luca, Chief Librarian of The Wolfsonian–FIU, will guide viewings of these remarkable objects.

  • 3:30PM–5:00PM | “The Harlem Renaissance at 100: Perspectives and Possibilities” (panel)

    Moderator:Dr. Shawn Christian, English
    Panelists:Dr. Heather Russell, English/Office of the Provost
    Dr. Alexandra Cornelius, Center for Women’s and Gender Studies/History
    Dr. Trina Sanders, Honors College/FIU Online
    Christopher Norwood, J.D., of Hampton Art Lovers @ Historic Ward Rooming House Gallery

    What is the value of studying the Harlem Renaissance 100 years later? What is its relevance today? Educators from four different disciplines, centered at both FIU and one of Miami’s leading cultural institutions, answer these questions by talking about how and why they incorporate the Harlem Renaissance into their own teaching and public outreach. Panelists will include Heather Russell, Professor of English at FIU; Alexandra Cornelius, Associate Teaching Professor of History and Director of FIU’s Center for Women’s and Gender Studies; Trina Sanders, Manager of Instructional Design at FIU Online and Lecturer at the Honors College; and Christopher Norwood, Founding Director of Hampton Art Lovers at the Historic Ward Rooming House. Shawn Christian, Associate Professor of English at FIU, will moderate.

  • 5:00PM–5:30PM | Buffer time
    Additional viewing time
Location: Faculty Club, Graham Center
  • 5:00PM–6:45 PM | Reception
    Join us for snacks, beverages, and live music performed by students from FIU’s School of Music. Several songs will be drawn from W.C. Handy’s influential Blues: An Anthology (1926), one of the books recently donated to The Wolfsonian–FIU. The student musicians and their musical selections will be introduced by Jamie Ousley, Area Coordinator of Jazz at FIU’s School of Music.
  • 6:45PM–7:00PM | Buffer time
    Transition to screening
  • 7:00PM–8:30PM | "Looking for Langston" Screening

    Moderator:Dr. Andrew Strycharski, Film Studies Certificate Program/English

    In this lyrical and poetic consideration of the life of revered Harlem Renaissance poet Langston Hughes, award-winning British filmmaker Isaac Julien invokes Hughes as a Black gay cultural icon, against an impressionistic, atmospheric setting that parallels a Harlem speakeasy of the 1920s with an 80s London nightclub. Extracts from Hughes’s poetry are interwoven with the work of cultural figures from the 1920s and beyond, including Black poets Essex Hemphill and Bruce Nugent, and photographer Robert Mapplethorpe, constructing a lyrical and multilayered narrative. This screening will be introduced—and the conversation afterward moderated—by Andrew Strycharski, director of FIU’s Film Studies Certificate Program.

Friday, January 28, The Wolfsonian-FIU
1001 Washington Avenue, Miami Beach, FL
  • 7:00PM–8:00PM | “Aaron Douglas’s Black Skyscrapers”

    Presenter:Dr. Adrienne Brown, Associate Professor of English, U. of Chicago

    As a technology for envisioning the city and its masses, the early skyscraper was a key site where Black people positioned themselves within the landscape of modernity. Adrienne Brown, author of The Black Skyscraper: Architecture and the Perception of Race and a University of Chicago associate professor, will address the skyscraper-centric images of Aaron Douglas, one of the most influential visual artists of the Harlem Renaissance. In a talk that ties together two current exhibitions—Aerial Vision, in our galleries, and The Harlem Renaissance, online—Brown will consider the multiple forms of urban belonging the skyscraper suggested to African American artists in the early 20th century.