Harlem Nocturne: Women Artists & Progressive Politics During World War II

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""In Harlem Nocturne, eminent scholar Farah Jasmine Griffin tells the stories of three black female artists who emerged during this period of unprecedented openness, flourishing professionally while also making enormous political strides for their fellow women and African Americans. Novelist Ann Petry, choreographer and dancer Pearl Primus, and composer and pianist Mary Lou Williams all achieved great fame during the 1940s. Like many African Americans in New York at the time, they weren't native to the city; Petry, a fourth generation New Englander, was born in Connecticut and arrived in Harlem as a newlywed, while Williams was born in Atlanta and only settled in Harlem after years on the road. Primus, for her part, was born in Trinidad and emigrated to New York when she was three years old. All three of these women would make significant contributions to their fields. Petry joined Richard Wright as a major new literary voice; through her work, especially her acclaimed novel The Street, she wrote about the complexities of life for working class black women. Mary Lou Williams became a major figure in the emergence of Be-Bop, and as a keyboardist and composer defied the notion that women could only contribute to jazz as vocalists. Pearl Primus, meanwhile, was a favorite of New York Times dance critic John Martin and performed across the globe and in front of enormous crowds, including at the 1943 Negro Freedom Rally at Madison Square Garden to an audience of 20,000""--