“The Harlem Renaissance has come to the University of Virginia’s Grounds,” begins a UVA Today article featuring the Library’s newest exhibition, “Their World As Big As They Made It: Looking Back at the Harlem Renaissance.”
The article continues,
[The exhibition] examines the works in the period of Black artistic and intellectual activity centered in a New York neighborhood. The Harlem Renaissance began in the early 1900s as racist violence and diminishing economic opportunity pushed Black Southerners to head north in a movement known as the Great Migration.
“These young people, like Zora Neale Hurston, Wallace Thurman, Gwendolyn Bennett … their approach was, ‘We’re not going to try to aspire to white person standards. We’re not going to try to aspire to the Black middle-class standard. We’re fine being Black,’” George Riser, chief exhibition curator, said.
The exhibition draws on the UVA Library’s collection strengths in portraying the period, by
… [including] issues of some of the Harlem Renaissance’s most popular magazines, like The Crisis and The Messenger, manuscripts and original dust jackets of major works that came out of the movement, and even some of the period’s fashions. Marlon Ross, an English professor at UVA, provided Appiah, Riser and Robertson with the necessary historical context as they chose the works they wanted to highlight. Though some of the works featured in the exhibit were added to the library’s collection recently, others were collected as they were being published.
“Not many institutions have a collection like ours,” Krystal Appiah, [one of the exhibition’s curators,] said.
In addition to showcasing items from the collection, a UVA Arts Council grant enabled the exhibition to commission works from five local artists. These contemporary pieces were inspired by poetry from the Harlem Renaissance and illustrate its lasting impact on modern culture.
You can visit “Their World As Big As They Made It” in The Albert and Shirley Small Special Collections Library until June 2024.