As World War II raged overseas, Harlem witnessed a battle of its own. Brimming with creative and political energy, Harlem’s diverse array of artists and activists launched a bold cultural offensive aimed at winning democracy for all Americans, regardless of race or gender. In Harlem Nocturne, esteemed scholar Farah Jasmine Griffin tells the stories of three black female artists whose creative and political efforts fueled this movement for change: novelist Ann Petry, a major new literary voice; choreographer and dancer Pearl Primus, a pioneer in her field; and composer and pianist Mary Lou Williams, a prominent figure in the emergence of Be-Bop. As Griffin shows, these women made enormous strides for social justice during the war, laying the groundwork for the Civil Rights Movement before the Cold War temporarily froze their democratic dreams.
A rich account of three distinguished artists and the city that inspired them, Harlem Nocturne captures a period of unprecedented vitality and progress for African Americans and women in the United States.