The New Negro Movement
World War I created a transformation for African Americans from the “old” to the “new.” Thousands moved from the rural South to the industrial urban North, pursuing a new vision of social and economic opportunity. During the war black troops fought abroad “to keep the world safe for democracy.” They returned home determined to achieve a fuller participation in American society. The philosophy of the civil rights movement shifted from the “accommodationist” approach of Booker T. Washington to the militant advocacy of W.E.B. Du Bois. These forces converged to help create the “New Negro Movement” of the 1920s, which promoted a renewed sense of racial pride, cultural self-expression, economic independence, and progressive politics.
Evoking the “New Negro,” the NAACP lobbied aggressively for the passage of a federal law that would prohibit lynching. The NAACP played a crucial role in the flowering of the Negro Renaissance centered in New York’s Harlem, the cultural component of the New Negro Movement. NAACP officials W.E.B. Du Bois, James Weldon Johnson, Walter White, and Jessie Fauset provided aesthetic guidance, financial support, and literature to this cultural awakening. The NAACP’s efforts on the international front included sending James Weldon Johnson to Haiti to investigate the occupation of U.S. Armed Forces there. In the courts the NAACP prosecuted cases involving disenfranchisement, segregation ordinances, restrictive covenants, and lack of due process and equal protection in criminal cases.
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