1920    1921    1922   1923    1924    1925    1926    1927   1928    1929    1930


The Harlem Stock Exchange is founded.

The Howard Players' productions at New York's Belasco Theater mark the beginning of the black university theater movement.

James Weldon Johnson becomes the chief executive officer of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP).

The Theatrical Owners and Bookers Association (TOBA), the black circuit of performers, is founded.

W. E. B. Du Bois's Darkwater is published.

January—Brownies' Book, a magazine for black youth, edited by W. E. B. Du Bois and Jessie Redmon Fauset, is published by the NAACP; it continues until December 1921. April—In The Crisis Du Bois first declares there is an imminent "renaissance of American Negro literature."

Spring - Langston Hughes, a high school senior, writes "When Sue Wears Red," his first poem of distinction reflecting a black identity.

June - Zora Neale Hurston receives an associate's degree from Howard University.

July - Shortly after graduating from high school, Langston Hughes writes "The Negro Speaks of Rivers."

August - Jean Toomer attends a party given by editor Lola Ridge, bringing him into contact with Greenwich Village writers, including Waldo Frank.

November—Eugene O'Neill's The Emperor Jones, starring Charles Gilpin, opens at the Provincetown Playhouse.


Countee Cullen published his first poem, "I Have a Rendezvous with Life," in the De Witt Clinton High School literary magazine.

The Light, a weekly newspaper for blacks, appears; its title is changed to Heebie Jeebies in 1925 and to The Light and Heebie Jeebies in 1927.

Harry Pace founds the Black Swan Phonograph Corporation, producing best-selling "race records" by Mamie and Bessie Smith.

The New York Public Library at 135th Street holds an exhibition of artworks by African-American artists, including Henry Tanner, Meta fuller, and Laura Wheeler Waring.

Zora Neale Hurston publishes her first story, "John Redding Goes to Sea," in Howard University's literary magazine, Stylus.

February - Claude McKay returns to New York from a two-year stint in England, and Max Eastman invites him to become associate editor of The Liberator. McKay accepts and continues in the post until June 1922.

May 23 - Shuffle Along, by Noble Sissle and Eubie Blake, the first musical revue written and performed by African Americans, opens at the David Belasco Theater. It launches the careers of cast members Josephine Baker and Florence Mills.

June - Langston Hughes's poem "The Negro Speaks of Rivers" is published in The Crisis.

September 4 - Hughes arrives in New York and enrolls at Columbia University, where he will remain until June 1922.

Fall - Hughes goes to the office of The Crisis and meets Jessie Redmon Fauset and W. E. B. Du Bois.

Fall - Jean Toomer is the acting principal of Sparta Agricultural and Industrial Institute, in Sparta, Georgia; his stay in the small town inspires Cane.

November - The Shuffle Inn (named after the revue Shuffle Along) opens; it is soon taken over by Connie and George Immerman, and becomes Connie's Inn.

December - Jean Toomer first sends pieces to The Liberator, where Claude McKay reads them and encourages "Miss Toomer."


Legislation sponsored by Congressman L. C. Dyer of Missouri is passed in Congress, making lynching a federal crime.

Marian Anderson begins her career in New York's Town Hall.

Alain LeRoy Locke begins corresponding with Countee Cullen, whom he has met through Jessie Fauset.

Langston Hughes begins incorporating blues into his poetry.

Early spring—Jean Toomer begins to visit Alain Locke's home, where he meets Countee Cullen and others.

Harcourt, Brace and Company publishes James Weldon Johnson's anthology The Book of American Negro Poetry.

The Harmon Foundation is established to promote black participation in the fine arts.

Spring—Claude McKay's Harlem Shadows is published by Harcourt, Brace; it is considered the first major book of the Negro Renaissance.

July—Jean Toomer decides to collect his pieces in a unified book called Cane.

Fall—Langston Hughes meets Countee Cullen at the 135th Street Library and begins a friendship.

September—The Liberator first publishes Jean Toomer.

September 20—Claude McKay ships out as a stoker, en route to Russia and the Fourth Congress of the Third Communist International; he will not return to America for twelve years. A few nights before the departure, James Weldon Johnson throws a farewell party for McKay that is remembered as "the first getting together of the black and white literati on a purely social plane."

September—Countee Cullen matriculates at New York University on a New York State Regents Scholarship; he will graduate in 1925.

October—Langston Hughes signs on as a deckhand for a dock-bound ship up the Hudson.


National economic recovery begins, marking six years of unprecedented growth.

The Lafayette Stock Company, a purveyor of serious drama in Harlem for seven years, ends.

Bessie Smith records "Down-Hearted Blues" and "Gulf Coast Blues" and becomes famous.

January—Opportunity: A Journal of Negro Life is founded by the National urban League, with Dr. Charles S. Johnson as its editor. The magazine continues until winter 1949; Johnson's editorship ends in 1928.

January 4—In Moscow, Claude McKay addresses the ecumenical council of Marxism on the failure of socialism to transcend racism in America.

February—Countee Cullen and Alain Locke begin a campaign to seduce Langston Hughes.

May—Willis Richardson's The Chip Woman is produced by the National Ethiopian Art Players and becomes the first serious play by a black writer on Broadway.

May—Jean Toomer meets Waldo Frank's wife, Margaret Naumberg, and begins an affair that ends the Naumberg-Frank marriage and the Frank-Toomer friendship.

June—Claude McKay speaks at the Fourth Congress of the Third International in Moscow.

June 23, 1923—Langston Hughes arrives in Africa (the Azores) on the West Hesseltine; he returns to New York in October.

September—Jean Toomer's Cane is published by Boni and Liveright.

Fall—Claude McKay moves to Paris and joins the expatriate crowd.

Fall—Mobster Owney Madden opens the Cotton Club, Harlem's largest nightclub.


Jazz becomes popular with white Downtowners.

Countee Cullen wins the Witter Bynner Poetry Competition for the best poem by an undergraduate.

Louis Armstrong comes to New York and joins Fletcher Henderson's orchestra at the Roseland Ballroom; it becomes the most popular dance band in New York.

Aaron Douglas arrives in Harlem from Kansas City. He begins studying with Winold Reiss, and develops a style of "geometric symbolism."

Walter White's The Fire in the Flint is published by Alfred A. Knopf; reading this book reawakens Carl Van Vechten's interest in black culture.

January—Langston Hughes ships out to Holland, deserts, and goes to Paris, where he works in Parisian cabarets; he returns to New York November 10, 1924.

January—A. R. Orage leads Gurdjieff dances in New York, marking the beginning of the Gurdjieff community craze in America, which attracts Jean Toomer, Aaron Douglas, and Wallace Thurman.

March—Albert and Charles Boni publishes There Is Confusion, by Jessie Redmon Fauset; it is the first novel by a woman of the Harlem Renaissance.

March 21—Opportunity stages a "coming-out party" at the Civic Club for Black Writers; many white writers and publishers are present. Alain Locke acts as master of ceremonies. This event is often considered the formal launching of the New Negro movement. It provides the impetus for a Black Writers' Guild (membership includes Langston Hughes, Countee Cullen, Jessie Fauset, and Eric Walrond) and the planning of an issue of the Survey Graphic for an issue on "The New Negro."

May 15—Paul Robeson stars in Eugene O'Neill's All God's Chillun Got Wings.

July 19—Jean Toomer sails to France to study with Gurdjieff.

July 31—Alain Locke and Langston Hughes, after a long correspondence, meet face to face in Paris.

August—Opportunity announces its first literary contest; winners are announced May 1, 1925.

October—The Crisis announces its first literary contest. In the same month in begins KRIGWA, a workshop to help guide black writers and artists and "help the development of beauty in the souls of black folk." Within two years it has six branches throughout the country.

November—Countee Cullen's poems are published in four prominent white magazines: Harper's, Century, American Mercury, and Bookman.

December—Zora Neale Hurston publishes "Drenched in Light," a short story, in Opportunity.


Viking publishes James Weldon Johnson's anthology The Book of American Negro Spirituals.

Dark Laughter, Sherwood Anderson's novel depicting black life, is published.

The Brotherhood of Sleeping Car Porters is founded.

Hall Johnson organizes a choir to "preserve the integrity of the Negro spiritual."

January—Zora Neale Hurston moves to New York.

February 12—The "First American Jazz concert" is staged at the Aeolian hall.

March 1—A special issue of the Survey Graphic, edited by Alain Locke, is published; devoted to African-American culture, it provides the germ for a larger book, The New Negro.

May 1—Opportunity holds its first literary awards dinner at the Fifth Avenue Restaurant, near Twenty-fourth Street. Winners include Langston Hughes, Countee Cullen, and Zora Neale Hurston.

Spring—Jean Toomer begins teaching Gurdjieff principles in Harlem (ends a year later).

June—Alain Locke is dismissed from Howard University owing to his advocacy of black history and higher salaries.

August 14—The first Crisis awards ceremony is held at the Renaissance Casino at 138th Street and Seventh Avenue; Countee Cullen wins first prize.

Labor Day—Wallace Thurman arrives in New York

Fall—Small's Paradise opens and becomes one of Harlem's most successful nightclubs.

September—Zora Neale Hurston begins attending Barnard, where she will study anthropology with Franz Boas until 1927. During this period she also works for Fannie Hurst as secretary/chauffeur.

December—At a dinner at the Wardman Park Hotel, Vachel Lindsay announces that he has discovered a "Negro busboy poet," and reads Langston Hughes's poetry to the audience.

December—The New Negro, an anthology edited by Alain Locke, is published by Boni and Liveright, illustrated with work by Winold Reiss, Aaron Douglas, and Miguel Covarrubias.


W.C. Handy's Blues: An Anthology is published.

Countee Cullen becomes assistant editor of Opportunity and begins to write a regular column, "The Dark Tower."

The Carnegie Corporation buys Arthur Schomburg's collection of Afro-Americana; it will become the basis for the Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture.

January—The William E. Harmon Foundation announces its first awards to African-AMerican writers, artists, and professionals.

February—Jessie Fauset ends her fiction editorship at The Crisis.

February—John Alden Carpenter's ballet Skyscrapers introduces jazz to the Metropolitan Opera.

February—Langston Hughes's The Weary Blues is published by Alfred A. Knopf. Hughes enrolls in Lincoln University on a scholarship from Amy Spingarn, graduates June 1929.

February—Carter G. Woodson founds Negro History Week.

March 12—The Savoy Ballroom opens.

March through November—The Crisis publishes responses to the question: "The Negro in Art: How Shall He Be Portrayed?" Among the respondents: Carl Van Vechten, H.L. Mencken, Alfred A. Knopf, Sinclair Lewis, Sherwood Anderson, Langston Hughes, Countee Cullen, Jessie Fauset, and Charles W. Chesnutt.

May 3—The Krigwa Players establish a Little Negro Theater and stage three plays at the 135th Street branch of the New York Public Library. They declare that Negro theater must be: 1) About us. 2) By us. 3) For us. 4) Near us.

Summer—Langston Hughes lives at Niggerati Manor on 136th Street.

June—Countee Cullen receives a master's degree in English from Harvard.

July—Langston Hughes and Zora Neale Hurston first discuss creating an opera that would authentically render black folklife.

Early summer—Seven younger members of the Renaissance (Langston Hughes, Zora Neale hurston, Wallace Thurman, Aaron Douglas, John P. Davis, Richard Bruce Nugent, and Gwendolyn Bennett) decide to found a magazine that provides a more experimental outlet for African-American writing than The Crisis or Opportunity.

November 1—Florence Mills dies.

November—The single issue of Fire!! appears; edited by Wallace Thurman, it is the Renaissance's counterpart of an avant-garde little magazine.


The Harlem Globetrotters established.

Louis Armstrong and Duke Ellington gain recognition.

Viking publishes James Weldon Johnson's God's Trombones: Seven Negro Sermons in Verse.

Alain Locke and Montgomery Gregory edit Plays of Negro Life: A Source-Book of Native American Drama.

January—Knopf publishes Langston Hughes's Fine Clothes to the Jew.

February—Charlotte van der Veer Quick Mason hears a lecture by Alain Locke on African art and decides to become a patron of the New Negro.

April 16—Langston Hughes first visits Charlotte Mason in her Park Avenue apartment.

May—Paul Green's In Abraham's Bosom, featuring an all-black cast, wins a Pulitzer prize.

Summer—Langston Hughes and Zora Neale Hurston meet by chance in Mobile, Alabama, and drive through the South together; along the way they encounter Jessie Fauset, Bessie Smith, and George Washington Carver.

Fall—A'Lelia Walker decides to "go in for culture," and on October 15 opens a tea-room salon called "The Dark Tower"; it becomes the meeting ground for high Harlem, bohemian Harlem, and Downtown.

Mid-September—Zora Neale Hurston first meets Charlotte Mason, introduced by Alain Locke.

October—Porgy, by DuBose and Dorothy Heyward, opens on Broadway.

November 5—Langston Hughes and Charlotte Mason enter into a formal agreement that Hughes will receive $150 a month to pursue his writing.

December 8—Zora Neale Hurston enters into a formal agreement with Charlotte Mason, giving Hurston $200 a month in exchange for contractual power; the initial agreement is to cover two years. Hurston departs December 14 to do fieldwork in the South; she will not return for two years.


The Lindy hop is made famous at the Savoy Ballroom and the Manhattan Casino.

Five novels by African-American writers are published: Rudolph Fisher's The Walls of Jericho, Nella Larsen's Quicksand, Jessie Fauset's Plum Bun, Claude McKay's Home to Harlem, and W.E.B. Du Bois's Dark Princess.

Julia Peterkin's white-authored black-themed novel, Scarlet Sister Mary, wins the Pulitzer Prize.

March—Claude McKay's Home to Harlem is published and becomes the first best-selling novel by a black writer.

April 9, 1928—Countee Cullen and Nina Yolande Du Bois are married by Cullen's adoptive father at Salem Methodist Church; James Weldon Johnson is a special guest, and Langston Hughes ushers.

June 30—Cullen sails to Europe with Harold Jackman, not with his wife.

June—The Messenger, founded in 1917 and edited by A. Philip Randolph and Chandler Owen, ends publication.

Summer—Langston Hughes works on his novel Not Without Laughter in Westfield, New Jersey.

September—Wallace Thurman marries Louise Thompson; the marriage goes on the rocks within six months.

August 24—Charles S. Johnson resigns as editor of Opportunity.

November—Harlem: A Forum of Negro Life, a magazine edited by Wallace Thurman, is published (one issue).


January 19—Ernst Krenek's jazz opera, Jonny Spielt Auf, opens at the Metropolitan Opera. Written in 1918 and premiered in Germany, it features a white baritone in blackface as the Negro jazz-band leader.

February—The Negro Experimental Theater is founded.

February—Wallace Thurman's play Harlem, written with William Jourdan Rapp, opens at the Apollo Theater on Broadway and becomes the most successful play to date written by a black playwright.

October 24—The stock market plunges.

Wallace Thurman's novel The Blacker the Berry is published.

Claude McKay's novel Banjo is published by Harper and Brothers.

Countee Cullen's The Black Christ is published by Harper and Brothers.

Connie's Hot Chocolates opens Fats Waller's Ain't Misbehavin' on Broadway.


Alfred A. Knopf publishes James Weldon Johnson's Black Manhattan.

February 26—Marc Connelly's The Green Pastures opens on Broadway.

Zora Neale Hurston begins organizing her field notes that will be published at Mules and Men.

April—Hurston and Langston Hughes begin working on Mule Bone. Both are living in Westfield, New Jersey, at Charlotte Mason's behest, with Louise Thompson (briefly Wallace Thurman's wife) as secretary. Hurston leaves in June, with the play unfinished.

July—Langston Hughes's novel Not Without Laughter is published by Knopf.