The Significant Role of the New Negro Movement in the Struggle For Equality
Jim Crow laws were a set of laws that limited the rights of African American individuals and the response to those laws were a move towards equality. One of those campaigns being the New Negro Movement, a start to a civil rights movement that took place in the 20’s. The drive came about due to the movement of African Americans from rural areas to urban areas due to the pressure of Jim Crow laws. The act sparked a literary push and social and economic opportunities for black individuals and gave way to new black culture. The literary and artistic movement created from the New Negro Movement which was called the Harlem Renaissance. The Harlem Renaissance was an artistic movement with close ties to civil rights. The Harlem Renaissance was a movement during the 20’s looking for a basis of African American culture and civil rights. Artists during the Harlem Renaissance like Archibald Motley helped paint a picture of a more refined black culture.
Archibald John Motley was born on October 7th, 1891 in New Orleans, soon after his family moved to Chicago which would become his childhood home. Motley’s sister Florence *Flossie* Motley was born 1895 a year after the move. Motley attended Englewood High school and received a full ride scholarship for architecture at the Chicago Armour Institute but turned it down to go to the School of Art Institute Chicago. Motley’s studies at the Art Institute were focused on the human figure and art history. Motley after college “began painting primarily portraits, and he produced some of his best-known works during that period, including Woman Peeling Apples (14), a portrait of his grandmother called Mending Socks (1924), and Old Snuff Dipper (1928.)” (Naomi Bloomberg). A breakout piece he produced was Mending Socks a portrait of his grandmother knitting socks with a portrait of her hanging on the wall behind his grandmother. The illustration was taken very well by critics and even earned him a Harmon Foundation award. in 1924 Motley married Edith Granzo, a white woman he had dated in secret during high school. His wife inspired him to paint many portraits of her. In 1925 Archibald Motley starred in a one-man art exhibit in New York City the first African American to do so. In 1928 he started releasing his jazz-inspired works which received critical acclaim. In 1929 Motley received a Guggenheim Fellow and moved to Paris, There he started releasing jazz-inspired works which brought fame like none of his works before. During the Great Depression Motley was subsidized by the government to paint the conditions of the people.In 1948 Archibald Motley’s wife died he stopped painting for eight years, working instead at a company that manufactured hand-painted shower curtains” (Naomi Bloomberg). Motley’s return to art after the assassination of Martin Luther King JR. The Assassination inspired him to make his final work: The First One Hundred Years, where “Motley captured in a single painting how the optimism of the Civil Rights movement crumbled in the wake of the assassination of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and racial unrest”(Emily Shire). Archibald Motley died shortly after the showing of The First One Hundred Years on January 16th, 1981 in Chicago.
Archibald Motley’s first artistic interests sprouted in the Chicago Art Institute where he first studied the human form which combined with nightlife and jazz inspired allowed the formation of a unique style. Motley’s grandmother is a commonly focused on figure, having two dedicated portraits which gave him early success because of the undertones and complex details giving meaning to his work. Motley had a lot of European influence for example his depiction of the human form was taken from a lot of Renaissance works. His influence to the Harlem Renaissance was bringing out a sort of elegance to black people through minor details and an undermining of racism
Motley combined old English works focusing on the human form with the nightlife of the city. Motley’s style was unique compared to other Harlem Renaissance Artists who focused on highlighting the negative areas of African American lifestyle while Motley showed positive and negative sides of African American life. Motley was trying to show that African Americans could be as cultured as white people, “His 1948 Portrait of a Cultured Lady is a strikingly restrained yet powerful image of a regal, sophisticated older African-American woman sitting in a modern-looking home while one of Motley’s own paintings hangs on the wall behind her.” (Emily Shire). The picture itself is a restrained protest against the racism of the time just like the majority of his art.
Archibald Motley an Artist mostly looked over when looking at the Harlem Renaissance showed significant impact towards Black culture and civil rights. Portraits of Blacks in Motley’s works show that Blacks were just as refined as anyone else could be by subtle details. Motley showed Black culture like no other artists, he focused on aspects that went against stereotypes and painted a more refined picture of Black people.
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