Harlem renaissance was a movement that spanned the 1920’s. During this time, it was known as the new Negro movement named after the 1925 anthology by Alain Locke. The legacy of the Harlem Renaissance opened doors and deeply influenced the generation (Soto, 2008). Its writing luminaries include Langston Hughes, Countee Cullen and James Weldon Johnson as discussed in this research paper.
He was first recognizes as asignificant literary figure during the 1920’s a period of Harlem Renaissance because of the number of emerging black writers. He was a writer,whose pieces ranged from novels plays. He wrote short stories, children’s books,translations and anthologies as well. However, his most well-known pieces were poems. His writing reflected the idea that the black culture should be celebrated reasons being, it is just as valuable as white culture (Hill, 2001). He advocated many of these beliefs in his pieces. Some examples of these are “The Negro Artist and the Racial Mountain”, “Let America Be America Again”, “One Way Ticket”, and many others.
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Countee Cullen was perhaps the most representative voice of the Harlem Renaissance. His life story is essentially a tale of youthful exuberance and gift of a star that flashed across the Afro-American firmament and then sank toward the horizon. He was a poet and his poems were not in favor with the white American t for logical reasonsfirst and foremost, though there had been Afro-American poets, there was not yet an Afro-American poetic tradition—in any meaningful sense of the term—to draw upon. Second, the English poetic tradition was the one that was accessible to him—the one that had been taught to him in schools he attended. Third, he felt challenged to establish that a black poet could surpass within that traditional framework. And fourth, he felt absolutely free to choose as exemplars any poets in the world with whom he sensed a temperamental affinity (and he certainly had that affinity with Housman and, especially, Keats). In addition, he shared their romantic self-involvement; he had an ego that was sensitive to the slightest tremors and that needed expression to remain whole, and like Keats he had to believe in human perfectibility (Gates, Higginbotham & American Council of Learned Societies, 2009). In poems such as “Heritage” and “Atlantic City Waiter,” Cullen reflects the urge to reclaim African arts—a phenomenon called “Negritude” that was one of the motifs of the Harlem Renaissance.
James Weldon Johnson
He distinguished himself equally as a man of letters and as a civil rights leader in the early decades of the twentieth century. He was also an author, educator, lawyer, diplomat, songwriter and civil rights activist (Johnson & Mitchell, 2006). A talented poet and novelist, Johnson is credited with bringing a new standard of artistry and realism to black literature in such works as The Autobiography of an Ex-Colored Man and God’s Trombones. He focused on the importance of bringing both the white and black culture together through his writing by introducing many whites Americans to the genuine African American creative spirit. Some of the poems done by him are, “Lift Ev’ry Voice and Sing” (1899), Fifty Years and Other Poems (1917).
The “double-consciousness” in Harlem Renaissance Poems
The introduction of the concept of double consciousness takes course from the point of one feeling as though he/ she has more than one social identity making them to be unable to develop a sense of self (Gilroy, 2003). This paper highlights a number of scenarios in which the concept of double consciousness is expressed in the Harlem Renaissance poems:
The writers depict a scenario of giving hopes and voice to the people who had served as slaves for over 60 years earlier. They make attack to the stereotypes of black Americans, the feeling of being disenfranchised, or possibly being left out in the mainstream America.
The Jazz Age became a turn point in which the African-American musicians married European and Africa music to for a new sound of music geared to be an element of voicing the inequality in the American society and fought against the traditional structures of governance and exercise of discriminative powers.
Racism discrimination has been a major issue in history memorial to appoint of natives American being deprived by law in matters of education, voting rights, citizenship, land acquisition and criminal procedure over a period of time due to the color of their skin (honey, 2006). Racial politics remains a major phenomenon. Racism continues to be reflected in socioeconomic inequality, and has taken on more modern, indirect forms of expression, most prevalently symbolic racism. Racial stratification continues to occur in employment, housing, education, lending, and government.
‘’I, too’’ Langston Hughes poem…’’I am the darker brother. They send me to eat in the kitchen when company comes, but I laugh, and eat well, and grow strong’’… this line of the poem actually gives a clear indication how the situation was like in that period of time (Schneider, 2011). Racism was one big issue that could actually make one to mingle freely with the rest maybe because they felt less or they were made less in public.
Additionally, Langston Hughes poem ‘’’democracy’’ also has an element of racism…’’I have as much right as the other fellow has to stand on my two feet and own the land’’… racism plays a role in fairness, once racism is being practiced it’s too obvious fairness and justice will be a nightmare to the affected person’s.
Freedom is the condition being able or allowed to do whatever one wants to without being controlled or limited. In Langston Hughes poem ‘’democracy’’ freedom is one the main theme in the poem where Langston his trying to bring out that democracy comes along with freedom and that freedom is one the essential thing in country because with freedom one is allowed to express themselves in different ways thus access their democratic rights in legible manner (Patton & Honey, 2006). Langston’s poem ‘’democracy’’…’’freedom is a strong seed planted in a great need’’… that line has a very huge message and meaning to the democratic world thus majority are never right as much as the number might make it seem so and freedom comes with a lot of good things appreciation, acceptances and embracing diversity making one important and valuable in different in their own way. ‘’I, too’’ Langston poem…’’tomorrow I’ll sit at the table when company comes. Nobody’ll dare say to me ‘’eat in the kitchen, ’Then…’’
An Example of Harlem Renaissance Poem – Neither early nor late
I wish it was done yesterday, though today isn’t inappropriate either
What if we all cared every-day, world could be a paradise to tether
Our right to a free society, is not negotiable
And should be handled with sobriety, no gamble
Who ever said color, distinguishes human beings?
And if you ever thought such hollow, you are the inhuman being
If superioty is light skin, then we need to redefine what’s superior
Holding tightly our chin, helps not, acting makes us not inferior
When they silence you and you become voiceless, your vote is your last rescue
When you agitate for your rights so relentless, you’ll cast it, just be in the queue.
When tomorrow is blurred of opportunities and equality, choose leaders wisely today
When they can buy injustice and inequality, they can’t buy our conscience any day
Yesterday is gone, today is here, tomorrow is uncertain
We aren’t contented with the society here, not even behind the curtains
A society for all of us, is our absolute pride
It’s not done yet, until it’s done.