This year in celebration of Black History Month we turn for naming inspiration to the cultural heroines of the Harlem Renaissance. These women—novelists, poets, playwrights, painters, sculptors and musicians– all played significant roles in the movement that flourished from the end of World War I through the mid-1930s, during which a group of writers and other artists fostered an intellectual blossoming that was instrumental in forging a new black cultural identity.
The talented women listed below, some better known than others, would all provide great namesakes and role models for any child.
A’LELIA Walker—an African-American businesswoman who was an important patron of the artists of the Harlem Renaissance in the 1920s.
ALICE Dunbar-Nelson — Journalist, poet, activist and prominent Harlem Renaissance figure.
ANGELINA Weld Grimké—Harlem Renaissance writer, one of the first black women to have a play performed in public.
ANITA Scott Coleman—Though born in Mexico and later a resident of the Southwest, Coleman published many short stories reflecting the themes of the Harlem Renaissance.
ARIEL Williams—a teacher, musician and published poet.
AUGUSTA Savage—a sculptor known for her bronze busts of Frederick Douglass, W. C. Handy, James Weldon Johnson and other prominent African Americans.
CLARISSA Scott Delaney—onetime secretary to Booker T. Washington, she was a poet whose subjects included Pan-Africanism and bi-racialism.
DOROTHY West — Harlem Renaissance novelist and short story writer, best known for her novel The Living is Easy, about an upscale black family. (shown at right)
EULALIE Spence—an actress, teacher and playwright during the Harlem Renaissance.
GEORGIA Douglas Johnson—a prolific poet and playwright whose Washington DC home was open to the leading black artists of the day, including Langston Hughes and Countee Cullen.
GWENDOLYN Brooks was the first African-American to win a Pulitzer Prize, for Poetry in 1950
HELENE Johnson—a Harlem Renaissance poet, cousin of Dorothy West; one of her innovative poems, ‘Bottled,’ appeared in the May 1927 Vanity Fair.
JESSIE Redmon Fauset—called by Langston Hughes a “mid-wife” of African-American literature, she was the literary editor of Crisis magazine and was the first black woman to be elected to Phi Beta Kappa.
LOIS Mailou Jones—a prize-winning artist who had a long and influential career, and whose work is represented in many major museums, including New York’s Metropolitan.
MARITA Bonner, whose writing dealt with issues of race, gender and class.
NELLA Larsen—a novelist who was the first African-American woman to win a Guggenheim fellowship for creative writing.
REGINA Anderson, New York City librarian who was one of three women to establish a salon for artists and intellectuals; helped found the Negro Experimental Theatre
ZORA Neale Hurston—one of the best known figures of the movement—though she died in poverty—particularly recognized for her 1937 novel, Their Eyes Were Watching God.
Also considered part of the Harlem Renaissance were such entertainers as:
LIL Hardin Armstrong,
NINA Mae McKinney
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