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The harlem renaissance and the african american tradition

The harlem renaissance and the african american tradition






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    The harlem renaissance and the african american tradition The harlem renaissance and the african american tradition Presentation Transcript

    • The Harlem Renaissance and the African-American Tradition
    • Historically
      • Up until the early 20 th century, the most powerful works by African-Americans were either
      • Slave narratives
      • Oral folk tales, songs, or
      • Literature by writers who couldn’t break out of a white context
    • Famous Early Writers
      • Paul Lawrence Dunbar: turn of the century poet, and the first black poet of note after Phillis Wheatley
      • Charles Chesnutt: fiction writer who portrayed political violence against blacks
      • Both writers discard the grief of slave life, exploring instead issues of the “new Negro” in white society
      • Debate about Black consciousness continued by
      • Booker T. Washigton, Up from Slavery
      • (1901): promotes parallel prosperity of the two races – ‘separate but equal’
      • W.E.B. Du Bois, The Souls of Black Folks
      • (1903): Blacks are not enduring easily; the Civil War didn’t really end, and slavery is still an issue
      • African-American literary tradition that thus emerges suggests that literature should either
      • (1) protest social conditions
      • (2) promote racial integration
      • The Harlem Renaissance, emerging in the 1920s, rejects these two ideas as their main aesthetic goal.
      • An enormous amount of literature, and a diverse variety, including poetry, fiction, droam and essays, was created by this group of writers, who called themselves the “New Negro Movement.”
      • Many of them were already known throuh publication in the white world.
    • Harlem Renaissance Writers
      • Jean Toomer Nella Larson
      • Eric Walrond Zora N. Hurston
      • Wallace Thurman Arna Bontemps
      • Langston Hughes
      • Countee Cullen
      • Claude McKay
      • Sterling Brown
    • Relationship to Modernism
      • A complex relationship – the Harlem Renaissance ran concurrently to the modernist movement
      • But it was distinct from the Western tradition.
      • In common: questions of marginality, use of ‘primitive’ (folk) material, writing for an elite audience
    • Emergence of the Harlem Renaissance in the ’20s
      • Racial assaults: 1919 Chicago, and East St. Louis especially
      • Economic and social competition post-Reconstruction in the South
      • Emergence of the Klu Klux Klan
      • Lack of full civil and political rights for African Americans, even during times of prosperity
      • Emergence of an educated black reading market through increased urbanization, racial awareness, growing literacy
      • Influence of black musicians
    • Artistic Goals
      • The primary goal of the Harlem Renaissance was to build consciousness of the history of the community, and to work towards progressive ideas.
      • Not merely the use of innovative forms that automatically signaled cultural advance – anti-experimentalism
      • Questioning of the relevance of folk material: is it advantageous or condescending?
      • Folk material includes slave narratives, spirituals and other folk music, jazz and blues
      • Overall, the Harlem Renaissance was an attempt to gain the means of expressing the complexity of the African-American Experience.
      • Modernism: the artist can transcend race and nation, society and politics; identity is less important than the truth of individual experience.
      • Harlem Renaissance: tries to deal with both ideas of self and society.
      • It was concerned with representing social justices and injustices.
      • It was attempting to create a uniquely black aesthetic.
      • It also created a means of cultural preservation and transmission to the next generation.