Digitally Giving Women Writers of the Harlem Renaissance the Credit and Respect They Deserve

The Harlem Renaissance was an African American movement of the early twentieth century which began in Harlem, New York, after World War I. The movement had a huge impact on their culture as they reemerge their African American roots to construct a new sense of creativity. Both men and women chose to manifest their creativity of African American culture through literature and music. By incorporating originality and culture into the arts, they hoped to generate equal amounts of respect and freedom in which the upper white classes had only received at the time. 

If you haven’t already noticed, throughout our years of history and english classes, most of the figures that we learn about from the Harlem Renaissance were all men, such as Langston Hughes, W.E.B. DuBois and many more. So, we start to question…What about the women? Why didn’t we learn more about the creative women figures of the movement as well? 

Amardeep Singh’s creation of the digital project, “Women of the Early Harlem Renaissance: African American women writers 1900-1922” revolves around a belief in the “technology of recovery,” which is a vital part in resurfacing African American literature through digital sources. Singh chose to build this project due to the lack of digital information found on the women writers of the Harlem Renaissance. The websites that seemed to provide the information tended to either be restricted, or were in a PDF page format that contained an insufficiency of background information. Without contextual background information about the writer or their piece, the reader wouldn’t comprehend what they are exactly looking at. 

Since there is a lack of digital accessibility in the amount of information offered about the women writers of the Harlem Renaissance, Singh strives to make his project available to everyone, especially groups who want to strengthen their knowledge on the subject. He hopes that researchers, teachers, and students can all benefit from his archive as it lays out his own original style; which introduces, as well as presents African American women through comprehensive and biographical data that is accessible for all. 

Amardeep Singh created the project using a website called, Scalar, which was designed by the University of Southern California to let individuals showcase their research/projects. In order to use the website, Singh completed Scalar’s five-day workshop to learn in-depth skills from their advanced team, becoming certified to begin the archive. Since Singh is an English Professor at Lehigh University, he chose to use Scalar and its benefits to spread his collections of studies and research on the African American women of the Harlem Renaissance, making it available for others as well. Within the introduction of his digital project, he makes a point of being interested in the exploration of thematic relationships through the literary works of these women. As a new poem is added to the website, it is tagged with “a range of terms, such as “slavery,” “motherhood,” “racism,” “Christianity,” etc.” Singh choses to tackle these thematic relationships in a creative way, while using a visualization to display the ways in which literary content is linked to his work. The color coded display incorporates a key to help the website user to navigate through the visual, and develop a better understanding of its purpose in showing the patterns and relationships of these literary figures. 

Also, creating a digitally accessible platform for people to gather valid information from is very significant in today’s age. This brings me back to Cathy Davidson’s book, The New Education, and the central idea that education should improve alongside new technologies and we should start to push the traditional ways of learning out and look towards technology to find more efficient and effective ways to teach in the classroom. As technology advances, the traditional act of reading and gathering information from a physical book will eventually be driven out. The recent and upcoming generations who grow up using technological devices become accustomed to reading and typing everything into search engines to gather information. For example, if a students (or anyone) needs to gather information about the women writers of the Harlem Renaissance for an assignment, they would much rather use the internet to search for this information, instead of looking through a bunch of lengthy books. So, when they come across a website like Singh’s, they have full access to important information about the women that might not have been featured in books or other websites. A digital archive such an Singh’s can assist an individual to receive the most data as he reemerges the stories of these African American women with the full context and credit they deserve. 

  • Gabby
  • https://scalar.lehigh.edu/harlemwomen/index

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