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Harlem Renaissance Essay

1583 words - 7 pages

Harlem Renaissance Poets
Hum 112
June 4, 2013

Harlem Renaissance Poets
The Harlem Renaissance was the time period that immediately followed the First World War. During the great migration a vast number of African Americans left the southern states to relocate to northern states such as Chicago, New York, and Washington DC. They were in search of new employment and artistic opportunities. This was the beginning of the Harlem Renaissance era where African American artist (musicians and poets) called themselves the “New Negro”. The two Poets I chose to discuss throughout this essay are Langston Hughes and Claude McKay. I will be discussing their roles during the Harlem Renaissance, The ...view middle of the document...

He stayed for only a year and moved back to his hometown. At the age of 21 he immigrated to the United States. He was outraged at the extreme racism and segregation he encountered upon arriving in Charleston, South Carolina. These first experiences influenced the role he played in the Harlem Renaissance.
Claude McKay was one of the first poets of the Harlem Renaissance. Some of his work was written in his native vernacular and others were militant and challenged white authority in America (Poetry foundation, 2013). He was known as the first and most militant voice of the Harlem Renaissance. He wrote about the oppression that blacks suffered at the hands of whites in Jamaica as well as America. His work often seemed contradictory because he would speak of the love and hate he felt for America. He was active in organizations such as the Universal Negro Improvement Association. McKay openly advocated civil liberties and racial equality. He paved the way for blacks such as Langston Hughes and others to speak about the injustices and racism they faced through poetry.
Elements of Double-Consciousness
Double consciousness was a phrase coined by W. E. B. Du Bois that describes an individual whose identity is divided into two facets (Sayre, 2011). This theory theory suggests that African Americans have two distinct identities-African and American.
The Negro speaks of Rivers by Langston Hughes
The Negro speaks of Rivers is a poem that is filled with verses containing examples of double consciousness. In line six it reads, “I built my hut near the Congo and it lulled me to sleep”. This is an example of double consciousness because it describes Africa being the origin of black Americans. Lines eight and ten read, “I heard the singing of the Mississippi when Able Lincoln went down to New Orleans and I’ve seen it’s muddy bosom turn golden into the sunset”. These lines describes the African American Transition between the beginning of their history and the future journey. The reference to the golden sunset stands symbolizes the freeing of African slaves. My interpretation of the last lines is that the African Americans culture is deeply rooted in both America and Africa and is as old as the currents of the river (Academy of American Poets, 2013).
The Weary Blues Analysis
The Weary Blues is a poem about a lonely a pianist depressed about not being able to fit into white or black society. The poem purposely points out that the pianist is Negro throughout the text. Line 9 reads, “With those ebony hands on each ivory key”. The keys represent the white society that he wants to be accepted into, but because he is black he is not. In lines 19-20, the pianist says “I don’t got nobody in all this world, I ain’t got nobody but ma self”. He feels alienated from his self as well as society. This poem leaves a feeling of melancholy because he is struggling with the fact that he is shunned by the white culture because he is black and...

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