The Harlem Renaissance was an era of African-American social philosophy and ethnicity based on the African-American society that was generated in Harlem in New York City. The period, expanding from around 1920s to 1940s, was conveyed through each cultural means such as poetry, music, theater, dance, literature, visual arts, politics and history.
In this period, various African-American writers, artists and musicians made use of cultural representation instead of direct political mediums to achieve equality and civil rights. Moreover, the period was able to produce a long lasting legacy of African-American writings, paintings and jazz music.
The period was also popular as the “Negro Movement”, termed after a compilation of remarkable African-American works named The New Negro, published by well-known philosopher Alain Locke in 1925.
According to Houston Baker Jr., wrote Modernism and the Harlem Renaissance, the period is a failure since it was unable to produce “vital, original, effective, or “modern” art in the manner, presumably, of British, Anglo American, and Irish creative endeavor,” (Baker, 1987, p. 14).
He reflected the labors of generations of black men and women in the United States during this period who have been segregated, exploited, verbally and physically abused, denied admittance to opportunity, and called in all means of improper names, and who have, nonetheless, copied a mighty characteristics and forced the white world to place in terror and, sometimes, to effect powerful imitations of their signal labors-thinking on such indisputable facts of most African-American.
Baker also pointed out that Harlem Renaissance was a failure - not because of an unrealized artistic veracity but because of a naiveté by the participants regarding their capability to achieve a wholesale transformation in American public attitudes about Blacks either during or after the Renaissance.
Moreover, he detailed the engagement in the history of the period and reveal the studied attention that this moment of intense literary activity commanded even from those looking at the historical and biographical sources which led to its creation. Thus, he summarized Harlem Renaissance as mostly one that mimicked Whites rather than one that emphasized an autonomous Black cultural personality.
Whose vision do you agree with, Malcom X’s or Martin Luther King?
Malcolm X and Martin Luther King Jr. were two black leaders who deeply persuaded various civil rights organizations during 1960s. Although both of them would like to have equal rights between black and white Americans, these two gentlemen differ in their schemes and means of achieving this goal. Malcom X was a strong advocate of racial separatism while Martin Luther king Jr. believed in racial integration.
Moreover, King was essentially a diplomatic leader who recommended non-violence to his supporters. He travelled around the country to give inspirational speeches that motivated black and white listeners to exert an effort for racial harmony.
In one of his speeches, entitled I Have a Dream, delivered on the steps of Lincoln Memorial in Washington D.C., he said, “I have a dream that one day this country will rise up and live out the true meaning of its doctrine…We hold these truths to be obvious: that all men are created equal…” (King, 1963)
On the other hand, Malcolm X did not support the integration of blacks and whites in the United States. He argued that white Americans were too racist in its peoples and institutions to offer trust and hopes to black Americans. Thus, he explained, “You don’t integrate with a sinking ship,” (Malcom X, 1987, p. 243).
As a head spokesperson of the Nation of Islam, A Black Muslim movement headed by Elijah Muhammad, he suggested a separate nation for black American to encourage themselves apart from what they believed to be a corrupt white nation intended for divine devastation. Moreover, he also displayed a most un-Christian distaste for loving his enemies and favoring violence as an answer to racial discrimination and human rights violation in the United States.
As such, he reiterated “I am not a racialist in any form whatsoever. I don't consider in any form of racism. I don't believe in any means of discrimination or separation but in what I’ve seen, it is widespread all over the country,” (Malcom X, 1987, p. 394).
Between the two famous civil rights activist, I would chose Martin Luther King Jr. since he championed an organization that represents full from the profound principle of black American’s potential for justice, opportunity and freedom.
His vision for African-American was captured in his message of possibility and hope for an outlook anchored in sensitivity, dignity and mutual respect. In most of his speeches, he challenged every American to be aware of their strength which lies in their talents diversity. Moreover, his vision was one that captures the real meaning of his message in which he expressively asserts The American Dreams – democracy, freedom and opportunity for all.
His sincere search for freedom through peaceful means gave him the Noble Peace prize award and one that continues to persuade societies and people around the world. Upon examining the two leaders, I favor King’s lifelong devotion to the principle of achieving human dignity through global relationships – an obligation of a responsible individuals and thorough stewards of democracy and freedom.
Is self-representation an important thing for writers to do, no matter how their race? Why or Why not?
Sometimes, self-representation promotes literary efficiency and personal responsibility. Writers use self-representation to: 1) inspire people, 2) promote an efficient cause, and 3) to deemphasize a particular claim. Why use self-representation?
Self-representation is the middle way between reality and fiction; it is the image of the ideal partially actualized or more accurately the image of the self actualized. Self-representation is the negotiated reality between the corporeal and mental within an individual.
Self-representation is important for writers because: 1) it has the ability to identify pathologies of identity, 2) it is capable of absorbing generalist tendencies, 3) it is in itself a framework of social action, 4) it has the ability to inspire and challenge, and 5) it reinforces assumed identity. As Dragstra noted:
For writers, the idea of self and self magnified is the conception of the conscious. Yet, the correlation between the self and the object world seems to be a matter of individuation.
The self is located outside the immediate personal boundary while the ‘world’ transcends beyond the self. In literature, self-representation allows the writer to combine these two elements – to seek a commonality between two seemingly unrelated concepts. However, this is far from reality. Objectified reality is something which even the rational mind cannot explain. It exists, prima facie, by necessity (23).
A writer who advocates liberty, equality, and fraternity does not advocates utopianism. A writer who supports for democracy does not necessarily support for social action.
4) You have a class of 12th graders that you must teach. You want to teach the slave narrative and Harlem Renaissance writers, but the Curriculum Committee of the school stipulates you provide a rationale for including those works in the Western canon of literature. Referring to certain texts, justify why these works should be included in the canon and in high school education.
What is the general notion of freedom? Equality? Justice? Traditionalists define freedom as ‘unrestrained action.’ Equality is defined as equality in opportunity while justice is legal, political, and social ‘fairness.’ Enlightenment thinkers define freedom as ‘responsible’ social action with respect to the general will; equality is ‘equality in opportunity’; justice is subscription to general laws of the commonwealth.
Now, how do Harlem writers define freedom, justice, and equality? After reading through the texts, the definitions offered by Harlem writers have a social, political, and economic dimension. For example, Langston
Hughes’ definition of freedom has two general implications. First, freedom is not only a political principle; it is also a social and economic rule of behavior in a democratic society.
Harlem Renaissance is not just about the refocus of definitions. It is also about empowerment. As Baker noted:
I think that the principal delusion might be the assumption that there is no distinctive set of family sounds, standards, and criteria to invoke where Afro-American history and culture are concerned.
That is to say, those who might render the judgment of failure would begin with notions of objects to be gained, projects to be accomplished, and processes to be mastered that stand in direct opposition to a resoundingly peculiar family history … the Harlem Renaissance, for the most, is about empowerment; the predilection which governs social action. Writers write to inspire action …
It is because their audience are the marginalized, the poor, and the oppressed migrant (xvi).