Harlem, the district of the city of New York, was a hot spot of artistic activities in the 1920s. Visual artists, members of the so-called Harlem Renaissance, congregated in this melting pot, among them were the sculptress Meta Vaux Warrick Fuller (1877-1968) and the painter and drawer Aaron Douglas (1899-1979), the painters Palmer Hayden (1890-1973) and William Henry Johnson (1901-70) as well as the photographer James Van Der Zee (1886-1983). Besides making art, they had their Afro-American origin in common. In this context, the invention of a new style and therefor a new vocabulary for the depiction of Afro-American culture was their merit. Along with the Harlem Renaissance, the profession of an artist was made accessible for the black population for the first time, which is why the movement aligned with the socio-political demands for improvements regarding the situation of Afro-American citizens, which were made by the "National Association for the Advancement of Colored People" (NAACP), founded in 1909. Accordingly, the Harlem Renaissance artists sought orientation with American Realism and depicted their own reality, thus creating striking and eloquent accounts of Afro-American life in America.
The woodcuts and woodcut-like geometrically composed monochrome paintings by Aaron Douglas are an especially expressive example, as they owe their powerful expression to a consistent reduction of stylistic means. The works of William Henry Johnson were inspired by various sources, at first they were more influenced by Impressionism, for instance by Paul Cézanne's still lifes, later they showed rather expressionist and cubist tendencies, which he unified in his colorful paintings.
The period of the Harlem Renaissance lasted from between 1919 and the Great Depression in 1929, whereas the individual artists continued creating works beyond this period.