Harlem Renaissance with Langston Hughes Essay

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Harlem Renaissance with Langston Hughes Essay

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The Harlem Renaissance brought about uniqueness amongst African Americans; everything was new. The visual art, the jazz music, fashion and literature took a cultural spin. During this time writer Langston Hughes seemed to outshine the rest with amazing works.

The Harlem Renaissance brought about many great changes. It was a time for expressing the African American culture. It is variously known as the Harlem Renaissance, the Black Literary Renaissance, or the New Negro Movement. Many famous people began their writing or gained their recognition during this time. The Harlem Renaissance took place during the 1920’s and 1930’s. “This movement known collectively as the Harlem Renaissance developed at the end of World War I in 1918, blossomed in the mid- to late 1920s, and faded in the mid 1930s. This movement developed along with social and intellectual disturbance in the African American community in the early 20th century.”[1]

The Harlem Renaissance also led to a declined era called the Great Depression. They also migrated to avoid terrorism, unending debts, and the poor living conditions of southern sharecropping. During that time, hundreds and thousands of educated and intellectual African Americans moved from financial depressed, low budget rural south to industrial cities like Chicago, Philadelphia, Cleveland, and especially New York City, to take advantage of the job opportunities created by World War I. As more and more blacks settled in the neighborhood of Harlem, New York, it became a political and cultural place for black America; Harlem became a black neighborhood.

“As a result of this great collective body of African Americans coming together, the variety of talents among them, the creativity they offered each other, and the dynamics of their new found existence, created a rebirth for African Americans, now known as The Harlem Renaissance.”[2]

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 popular thing. Many white people came to discover this newest art, dancing, music, and literature. The Great Migration of African American people from the rural South to the North, and many into Harlem were the cause of this occurrence. The Great Migration was the movement of two million blacks out of the Southern United States to the Midwest, Northeast and West from 1910 to 1930. African Americans migrated to escape racism and prejudice in the South, as well as to seek jobs in industrial cities. Pan-africanism is a movement to unify African Americans into one community. America during this time begins to see this happening in Harlem. Harlem was originally a Dutch settlement.

Harlem became one of the largest African American communities in the United States, and during the Harlem Renaissance became a center for art and literature. Many great 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 in 1967. He lived most of his adult life in Harlem. He grew up without a stable family environment. His father moved to Mexico, and he never really saw much of him. Hughes was often referred to as “Harlem’s poet.”[3] Hughes had and still has a great influence on poetry.

Hughes poetry was a reflection of the African-American culture and Harlem. He wrote many poems, and continued to write even after the Harlem Renaissance. He loved Harlem that was 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 sad and dangerous place to be, after the depression. Hughes described the impact of the Great Depression among African Americans, “The depression brought everyone down a peg or two. And the Negro had but a few pegs to fall.”[4]

The Harlem Renaissance was important because it was the first time that the mainstream publishers and critics took African American literature seriously. Although it was primarily a literarily movement, it was closely related to music, theater, art, and politics. The Harlem Renaissance brought about many great changes. Many famous people began their writing or gained their recognition during this period.

Langston Hughes valued the teaching of children. Many of his poems are children’s poems. He often traveled to schools and read his poetry. His first published works were in a children’s magazine during the 1920’s. He published a book of ABC’s called The Sweet and Sour Animal Book. He wanted to inspire the youth, and make them feel good about themselves. He did not only write poetry, but that is what he is famous for. Much of his poetry talks of the hardships, poverty, inequality, etc. of the African-American people. His work has 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 be resolved. It opens the reader’s eyes to the many disadvantages that many people have suffered through and are still trying to overcome.

Langston Hughes is probably the most influential and remembered poet of the Harlem Renaissance. Hughes writes about how the African-American people 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 showing how these people are everywhere. In America we act as if they are lesser, but he is saying to the white people, look at all my race has accomplished.

For example, “We” built the pyramids, and we have been around as long as these rivers. This poem is meant to be positive. It does not talk directly about racism or puts down the white race for being prejudiced. In the poem, “I, Too” he describes how he is also part of what America is. Even if he is sent to eat in the kitchen, he is as much a part of America as anyone else. It shows that one day he will not be made to hide and eat in the kitchen. One day people will see that African Americans are beautiful people, and will be ashamed of how they were treated. This poem gives hope to the black community. It makes them look forward to the day when equality will come and racism will end. “Too bad that the day has still not yet come in this century.”[5]

In his poem, “Harlem” this issue is addressed. He wonders what happens to dreams that are postponed. He feels that how long one must still dream of something that seems like it will never come. The African American people have been waiting to be seen as equal for several years, yet it still seems as though it will not happen. In “The Negro Artist and the Racial Mountain,” a young Negro poet said, “I want to be a poet-not a Negro poet.”[6] 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 part of white America, which wasn’t right. He talks about how they should learn to appreciate their diversity and their culture. The blacks should be proud of their individuality. He thinks that many blacks are taught by white teachers, see white books and pictures, white papers, and then want to be what they are seeing.

The diversity of African American talent reached an all time along the path of generating rebirth to the nation during the Harlem Renaissance period of 1919 to 1940. There was an outburst of confidence, expression, creativity and talent. This collective outburst established a path for artistic cultural expression leading to social transformation for African Americans. As a result, Harlem became the “capital of the African American world”. The rebirth of African American culture was collected of clever works of art, uplifting and expressive poets, musicians of perfection, inspirational political activists, creative painters, inventive sculptors, creative thinking novelists, dramatic playwrights, visionary choreographers, natural actors, excellent journalists, and imaginative actors. Many of these African Americans have made unique and long-lasting contributions to African American history and became major icons of the American scene.

Langston Hughes will always be known as 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 generation and show them that they can be successful. He wanted the children to be proud of who they are, and to excel in literature. He was part of something great. That something great was the Harlem Renaissance. It was a time of change, a time of happiness for the most part. It was a time when many people realized that there were many talented African Americans. Also it was a time for new things and a new way of doing things.

Jazz and Blues became popular. White people came to Harlem to see how blacks danced, and what music they listened to. Harlem became a very trendy place. The arts increased 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 same time it caused fighting between the middle class and poorer blacks. The feeling of inequality still existed, but at least African Americans were finally getting some recognition for some of the amazing accomplishments that they have made.

The Harlem Renaissance was a transitional moment in time when poetry transformed a nation of African Americans to ultimate heights. The Harlem Renaissance brought about uniqueness among African Americans; everything was new. Great names such as Langston Hughes paved the way for the future generations to follow.


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