Copyright 1995 ABC-CLIO. This review was taken from the ABC-CLIO Video Rating Guide for Libraries on CD-ROM, a 5-year compilation of over 8900 video titles and reviews, 1990-1994. For information regarding order VRGL CD-ROM, contact: ABC-CLIO, P.O. Box 1911, Santa Barbara, CA 93116-1911; 805-968-1911

This following text has been included in the UCB Media Resources Center Web site with the kind permission of the publishers.

Against the Odds: The Artists of the Harlem Renaissance

  • Rating: ****
  • Audience: Jr. High to Adult
  • Price: Public performance: $69.95
  • Date: Copyright 1994. Released 1994.
  • Descriptors: Blacks - History. Art - History. Artists. United States - History - 20th century. Production Information: Live action, Archival footage, Stills. Produced by Amber Edwards. Color, b&w. 56 min.
  • Production Company: New Jersey Network 1573 Parkside Ave. Trenton, NJ 08638 (609)530-5252
  • Available from: PBS Video 1320 Braddock Pl. Alexandria, VA 22314-1698 (703)739-5380
  • Cataloging: 700.89'960'73 Afro-American artists - New York (N.Y.)||Harlem Renaissance|| Documentary films
  • Print Entry #: 5:1381
  • Reviewer: Richard A. Hutton
  • Against the Odds: The Artists of the Harlem Renaissance tells the little-known story of African-American artists working during the 1920s and 1930s. More than just an art history lesson, the video tells the struggle of the American black population trying to redefine itself. After the 1919 race riots, the then-newly formed National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) wanted to show American blacks as a creative, intelligent group willing and able to make a positive contribution to society. To counter the racial stereotype of black Americans in the 1920s, the NAACP and the Urban League set about the task of training blacks in the visual and performing arts. One person offering assistance in this endeavor was William E. Harmon, who in 1922 established a foundation that exhibited artists and provided opportunities for performers to hold plays and concerts.

    The Harlem Renaissance was both a complex political awakening to change and an art movement. African-American historians tell of the struggles black political leaders had trying to convert America's opinion of the black population from negative to positive. For example, David Levering Lewis, the author of When Harlem Was in Vogue, explains the Harlem Renaissance was "not about aesthetics but about improving the Negroes' lot in life." Art historians, on the other hand, present the influence of European art movements on these urban black artists. Clement A. Price, a Rutgers University historian, tells of the dissension erupting between independent-thinking artists and NAACP leaders who thought artists should look only to Africa for influence in their work.

    Using archival newsreel footage, still photographs, interviews with some of the surviving artists, and interviews with historians, this video explores the complex and rich history of the Harlem Renaissance. The production quality is excellent. Sound and lighting from scene to scene are consistent. The editing is tight, moving the program along at a smooth pace. Against the Odds: The Artists of the Harlem Renaissance would be a good addition for public and school library collections.

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