II

Narratives of African American Art and Identity

James VanDerZee

Couple in Raccoon Coats, 1932

Black-and-white photograph

8" x 10"


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Couple in Raccoon Coats

When James VanDerZee's photos were rediscovered in 1969, the history, excitement, and glamour of the Harlem of the 1920s dazzled the American public. VanDerZee's images of Harlemites gave faces to the "New Negroes" of the growing black urban middle class. Couple in Raccoon Coats has become the quintessential image of Jazz Age Harlem. The fur-shrouded black couple in front of a shiny Cadillac are the embodiments of style, prosperity, and class. The faces and places that populate VanDerZee's body of work constitute a virtual lexicon of New Negro identity as it developed during the Harlem Renaissance.   A. L. C.

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