African American Writers of the Harlem Renaissance
By Kierra Jones Section 6 Harlem History Writers Concept Map Resources Assignment About the Author
Harlem History <ul><li>Please Click the Video below to learn about the historical aspects of Harlem during this time. </li></ul>
Langston Hughes Zora Neale Hurston Countee Cullen Claude McKay Ida B. Wells Click the video for an introduction to the authors
Langston Hughes Born in Joplin, Missouri, James Langston Hughes was a member of an abolitionist family. He was the great-great-grandson of Charles Henry Langston, brother of John Mercer Langston, who was the first Black American to be elected to public office, in 1855. Hughes attended Central High School in Cleveland, Ohio, but began writing poetry in the eighth grade, and was selected as Class Poet. His father didn't think he would be able to make a living at writing, and encouraged him to pursue a more practical career. He paid his son's tuition to Columbia University on the grounds he study engineering. After a short time, Langston dropped out of the program with a B+ average; all the while he continued writing poetry. His first published poem was also one of his most famous, "The Negro Speaks of Rivers", and it appeared in Brownie's Book. Later, his poems, short plays, essays and short stories appeared in the NAACP publication Crisis Magazine and in Opportunity Magazine and other publications. Click the arrow for written and audio versions of some of Langston Hughes’ poems.
Some Works By Langston Hughes <ul><li>Harlem: A Dream Deferred </li></ul><ul><li>What happens to a dream deferred? </li></ul><ul><li>Does it dry up like a raisin in the sun? Or fester like a sore-- And then run? Does it stink like rotten meat? Or crust and sugar over-- like a syrupy sweet? </li></ul><ul><li>Maybe it just sags like a heavy load. </li></ul><ul><li>Or does it explode? </li></ul><ul><li>The Morning After </li></ul><ul><li>I was so sick last night I Didn't hardly know my mind. So sick last night I Didn't know my mind. I drunk some bad licker that Almost made me blind. </li></ul><ul><li>Had a dream last night I Thought I was in hell. I dreamt last night I Thought I was in hell. Woke up and looked around me-- Babe, your mouth was open like a well. </li></ul>I said, Baby! Baby! Please don't snore so loud. Baby! Please! Please don't snore so loud. You jest a little bit o' woman but you Sound like a great big crowd. Sylvesters’ Dying Bed I woke up this mornin’ ’ Bout half-past three. All the womens in town Was gathered round me. Click the sound link to hear an audio version of the poems read by Langston Hughes I woke up little later ’ Bout half-past fo’, The doctor ‘n’ undertaker’s Both at ma do’. Black gals was a-beggin’, “ You can’t leave us here!” Brown-skins cryin’, “Daddy! Honey! Baby! Don’t go, dear!” But I felt ma time’s a-comin’, And I know’d I’s dyin’ fast. I seed the River Jerden A-creepin’ muddy past— But I’s still Sweet Papa ’Vester, Yes, sir! Long as life do last! So I hollers, “Com’ere, babies, Fo’ to love yo’ daddy right!” And I reaches up to hug ’em— When the Lawd put out the light. Then everything was darkness In a great ... big ... night. Sweet gals was a-moanin’, “ Sylvester’s gonna die!” And a hundred pretty mamas Bowed their heads to cry. I woke up little later ’ Bout half-past fo’, The doctor ‘n’ undertaker’s Both at ma do’.
Zora Neale Hurston Click on the picture to hear a reading of Their Eyes Were Watching God performed by Ruby Dee The sassy, flamboyant, and bold Zora Neale Hurston, with her trademark black city hat and luxurious scarves, started her life’s eventful journey on January 7, 1891 and left the land of the living on January 28, 1960. Born to the union of Rev. John and Lucy Hurston, Zora Neale Hurston became one of the most prominent African American women writers of the Harlem Renaissance. Zora Neale Hurston has been the inspiration for many women writers such writers as Toni Morrison, Alice Walker, and Gloria Naylor and has been identified as one of the foremothers of literature . Growing up in Eatonville, Florida was a very positive experience for Hurston: she was able to obtain a high esteem of African Americans during a time of prejudice and racism, and was able to create literature based on her life in Eatonville . Some of her works include Their Eyes Were Watching God, Jonah’s Gourd Vine, Dust Tracks on a Road, Tell My Horse, and Seraph on the Suwanee .
Countee Cullen <ul><li>Born in Louisville, Kentucky, and raised by Elizabeth Porter until her death in 1908, this poet of the Harlem Renaissance was raised by the Rev. and Mrs. Frederick Cullen of a New York City Methodist Episcopal Church. When he attended Dewitt Clinton High School, Cullen not only edited the school paper, but won a citywide poem competition for "I Have a Rendezvous with Life." Graduating from New York University in 1925 as Phi Beta Kappa, he was already writing some of the acclaimed poems published in books by Harper and Brothers: Color (1925), Copper Sun (1927). He won first prize in the Witter Bynner Contest in 1925. His death in 1946 was occasioned by a gastrointestinal disorder. This representative of the Harlem Renaissance has public schools in both Chicago and New York named for him. </li></ul>Click to view poetry by Countee Cullen
Poetry by Countee Cullen Yet I do Marvel I doubt not God is good, well-meaning, kind, And did He stoop to quibble could tell why The little buried mole continues blind, Why flesh that mirrors Him must someday die, Make plain the reason tortured Tantalus Is baited by the fickle fruit, declare If merely brute caprice dooms Sisyphus To struggle up a never-ending stair. Inscrutable His ways are, and immune To catechism by a mind too strewn With petty cares to slightly understand What awful brain compels His awful hand. Yet do I marvel at this curious thing: To make a poet black, and bid him sing! Tableau Locked arm in arm they cross the way, The black boy and the white, The golden splendor of the day, The sable pride of night. From lowered blinds the dark folk stare, And here the fair folk talk, Indignant that these two should dare In unison to walk. Oblivious to look and work They pass, and see no wonder That lightning brilliant as a sword Should blaze the path of thunder. Incident Once riding in old Baltimore, Heart-filled, head-filled with glee, I saw a Baltimorean Keep looking straight at me. Now I was eight and very small, And he was no whit bigger, And so I smiled, but he poked out His tongue, and called me, "Nigger." I saw the whole of Baltimore From May until December; Of all the things that happened there That's all that I remember.
Claude McKay Jamaican-born Claude McKay (1890-1948) was a poet and short story writer whose activist, and his individual literary voice was among the first expressions of the Harlem Renaissance of the 1920s. Although McKay was schooled in Western classics and initially preferred them, his mentor and early patron, Walter Jekyell, an expatriate and folklorist, advised him to use the dialect and the folklore of Jamaica in his poetry. By 1912, McKay migrated to the United States and eventually found himself in New York by 1914. His various jobs, including that of a dining-car waiter on trains, found expression as literary subjects in his works. His most famous and most anthologized poem, a Shakespearean sonnet, "If We Must Die" published in 1919, brought McKay immediate fame and critical recognition. His works, written both in Harlem and during travels in Europe, include "Harlem Shadows" (1922), "Home to Harlem" (1929), and "Banjo" (1929). McKay's work was so recognized that Harlem Renaissance thinker and essayist, Alain Locke, included some of his poetry in the definitive "The New Negro" (1925).
Flower of Love The perfume of your body dulls my sense. I want nor wine nor weed; your breath alone Suffices. In this moment rare and tense I worship at your breast. The flower is blown, The saffron petals tempt my amorous mouth, The yellow heart is radiant now with dew Soft-scented, redolent of my loved South; O flower of love! I give myself to you. Uncovered on your couch of figured green, Here let us linger indivisible. The portals of your sanctuary unseen Receive my offering, yielding unto me. Oh, with our love the night is warm and deep! The air is sweet, my flower, and sweet the flute Whose music lulls our burning brain to sleep, While we lie loving, passionate and mute. Africa The sun sought thy dim bed and brought forth light, The sciences were sucklings at thy breast; When all the world was young in pregnant night Thy slaves toiled at thy monumental best. Thou ancient treasure-land, thou modern prize, New peoples marvel at thy pyramids! The years roll on, thy sphinx of riddle eyes Watches the mad world with immobile lids. The Hebrews humbled them at Pharaoh's name. Cradle of Power! Yet all things were in vain! Honor and Glory, Arrogance and Fame! They went. The darkness swallowed thee again. Thou art the harlot, now thy time is done, Of all the mighty nations of the sun.
Ida B. Wells Ida B. Wells-Barnett was an African-American woman of striking courage and conviction. She achieved nationwide attention as leader of the anti-lynching crusade. Raised in Mississippi after the Civil War, Wells worked her way through Rust College and taught school in Memphis, Tennessee. A writer, she became part-owner of a newspaper, the Memphis Free Speech . In May 1892, in response to an article on a local lynching, a mob ransacked her offices and threatened her life if she did not leave town. Moving to Chicago, Wells continued to write about Southern lynchings. While investigating, she would go directly to the site of a killing, sometimes despite extreme danger. In 1895, she published The Red Record , the first documented statistical report on lynching. A forceful speaker, Wells lectured widely in the North and in Great Britain. She was a founding member of the National Afro-American Council, served as its secretary, and was chairman of its Anti-Lynching Bureau. Wells was also a founder of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People. Wells married African-American rights advocate Ferdinand Barnett, and the couple published the Chicago Conservator . They were considered pillars of the black community of Chicago. Ida B. Wells-Barnett had several children, including Ida B. Wells, Jr.
About the Author <ul><li>Kierra Jones is a junior at Grand </li></ul><ul><li>Valley State University majoring </li></ul><ul><li>in English Secondary Education. </li></ul><ul><li>She plans to graduate from Grand Valley and teach in the Detroit Public Schools system, where she was also educated. For more questions or suggestions, you may contact Kierra by email. </li></ul>
Assignment <ul><li>Write a two page paper discussing how the Harlem Renaissance might have influenced other African American writers and artists of today. </li></ul><ul><li>Be sure to also discuss the conditions of Harlem in the 1920s and America today. In what ways can you see America today also experiencing a “renaissance”? Include examples! </li></ul>
Resources <ul><li>http://americanart.si.edu/images/1969/1969.47.24_1b.jpg </li></ul><ul><li>http://player.discoveryeducation.com/index.cfm?guidAssetId=AA10ADEA-753F-4ABB-8187-14A623266265 </li></ul><ul><li>http://sarbo.net/My_Homepage_Files/Page5.html </li></ul><ul><li>"Zora Neale Hurston." Contemporary Authors Online. Literature Resource Center. Gale. Grand Valley State University-Allendale. Mar. 2008 <http://go.galegroup.com.ezproxy.gvsu.edu>. </li></ul><ul><li>http://home.mctc.mnscu.edu/~creelgi/2232/yetdo1.htm </li></ul><ul><li>http://www.gutenberg.org/files/22256/22256-h/22256-h.htm </li></ul><ul><li>http://www.zoranealehurston.com/ </li></ul><ul><li>http://www.poetryfoundation.org/archive/poem.html?id=8626 </li></ul><ul><li>http://lcweb2.loc.gov/ammem/aap/idawells.html </li></ul><ul><li>http://www.notablebiographies.com/Ho-Jo/Hughes-Langston.html </li></ul><ul><li>http://player.discoveryeducation.com/index.cfm?guidAssetId=3EFF95F9-1342-4375-B4EE-C9D955D77F22 </li></ul><ul><li>http://www.poemhunter.com/claude-mckay/ </li></ul>
African Americans of the Harlem Renaissance About the Author Countee Cullen Concept Map Resources African American Writers of the Harlem Renaissance Poetry by Claude McKay Ida B. Wells Langston Hughes Assignment Claude McKay Some Works by Langston Hughes Zora Neale Hurston Harlem History Writers Poetry by Countee Cullen