The Harlem RenaissanceThe Harlem Renaissance brought about manygreat changes. It was a time for expressing the African-Americanculture.
Many famous people began their writing or gained their recognitionduring this time. The Harlem Renaissance took place during the 1920’sand 1930’s. Many things came about during the Harlem Renaissance;things such as jazz and blues, poetry, dance, and musical theater. The African-American way of life became the “thing. ” Many white peoplecame to discover this newest art, dancing, music, and literature.
The Great Migration of African-American people from the rural South tothe North, and many into Harlem was the cause of this phenomenon. Harlem was originally a Dutch settlement. Harlem became one of thelargest African- American communities in the United States, and duringthe Harlem Renaissance became a center for art and literature. Manygreat writers came about during this time, one of which was Langston Hughes. Hughes was born in 1902 with the name James Langston Hughes, and died in1967.
He lived most of his adult life in Harlem. He grew upwithout a stable family environment. His father moved to Mexico,and he never really saw much of him. Hughes was often referred toas “Harlem’s poet” (Haskins 174).
Hughes had and still has a greatinfluence on poetry. Hughes poetry was a reflection of theAfrican-American culture and Harlem. He wrote many poems, and continuedto write even after the Harlem Renaissance. He loved Harlem thatwas his home. He watched it decline with the onset of the Great Depression.
He saw Harlem turn into a place to be feared by many. It was a sadand dangerous place to be, after the depression. Hughes describedthe impact of the Great Depression upon African-Americans, “The depressionbrought everyone down a peg or two. And the Negro had but a few pegsto fall” (Haskins 174). Langston Hughes valued the teaching of children. Many of his poems are children’s poems.
He often traveled to schoolsand read his poetry. His first published works were in a children’smagazine during the 1920’s. He published a book of ABC’s called TheSweet and Sour Animal Book. He wanted to inspire the youth, and makethem feel good about themselves.
He did not only write poetry, butthat is what he is famous for. Much of his poetry talks of the hardships,poverty, inequality, etc. of the African-American people. His workhas inspired many people, and is read by many students and scholars. He is a great positive role model. I personally love his poetry.
It describes these problems within our society that still have yet to beresolved. It opens the reader’s eyes to the many disadvantages that manypeople have suffered through and are still trying to overcome. Hughes writes about how the African-Americanpeople have been all over the world. In “The Negro Speaks of Rivers”he talks about them bathing in the Euphrates, building huts by the Congo,and singing of the Mississippi.
I think that this poem is showinghow these people are everywhere. That in America we act as if theyare subordinate, but he is saying to the white people, look at all my racehas accomplished. “We” built the pyramids, and we have been aroundas long as these rivers. This is a positive poem. It does nottalk directly about racism nor puts down the white race for being prejudiced(Lauter 1612-13). In the poem, “I, Too” he describes how he is also partof what America is.
Even if he is sent to eat in the kitchen, heis as much a part as anyone else. One day he will not be made tohide and eat in the kitchen. One day people will see that African-Americansare beautiful people, and will be ashamed of how they were treated. This poem gives hope to the black community. It makes them yearnfor the day when equality will come and racism will end.
Too badthat the day has still not yet come in this century (Lauter 1618). In his poem, “Harlem” this is addressed. He wonders what happensto dreams that are deferred. How long must one still dream of somethingthat seems like it will never come.
The African-American people havebeen waiting to be seen as equal for many years, yet it still seems soout of reach. His poetry seems to address this over and over again(Lauter 1619). In “The Negro Artist and the Racial Mountain,” a youngNegro poet said, “I want to be a poet-not a Negro poet” (Lauter 1629). It also describes how many middle class blacks tried to be more like a”white” person.
To disown their heritage in a way and become partof white America. He talks about how they should learn to appreciatetheir diversity and their culture. The blacks should be proud oftheir individuality. He thinks that many blacks are taught by whiteteachers, see white books and pictures, white papers, and then want tobe what they are seeing. “Why should I want to be white? I am a Negro-andbeautiful” (Lauter 1632).
African-Americans must be themselves andbuild a foundation for the future blacks to stand upon so they can finallybe “free within [them]selves” (Lauter 1632). He still carries thehope that one day his people will become equal, and that they can be appreciatedfor all that they have done for America (Lauter 1629-32). James Langston Hughes will always be knownas a great poet who did so much to make his race move toward equality. He wrote many inspirational poems. He wanted to reach a younger generationand show them that they can be successful. He wanted the childrento be proud of who they are, and to excel in literature.
He was partof something great. That something great was the Harlem Renaissance. It was a time of change. A time of happiness for the most part.
A time when many people realized that there were many talented African-Americans. A time for new things and a new way of doing things. Jazz and Bluesbecame popular. White people came to Harlem to see how blacks danced,and what music they listened to. Harlem became a very “hip” place. The arts flourished all around Harlem.
People were having fun. This influenced many people and ways that still are around today. The influence of the music can still be heard in some of our music today. Many authors today were inspired by those of the Harlem Renaissance. It was a great time for the African- American community, but at the sametime it caused fighting between the middle class and poorer blacks. The feeling of inequality still existed, but at least African-Americanswere finally getting some recognition for some of the wonderful accomplishmentsthat they have made.
Works CitedHaskins, Jim. The Harlem Renaissance. Brookfield, Conn: Millbrook Press, 1996. Hughes, Langston. “Harlem. “The Heath Anthology of American Literature.
3rd ed. Ed. Paul Lauter. New York: HoughtonMifflin Company, 1998. 1619. Hughes, Langston.
“I, Too. “Lauter 1618. Hughes, Langston. “The NegroArtist and the Racial Mountain. ” Lauter 1629-32.
Hughes, Langston. “The NegroSpeaks of Rivers. ” Lauter 1612-13.