The harlem renaissance and the african american tradition

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The harlem renaissance and the african american tradition

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

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