And Do You Locke, Take Thee Hughes?
In a comparison of the essays “The New Negro” by Alain Locke and “The Negro Artist and the Racial Mountain” by Langston Hughes, there exists both similarities and differences. But, what are most striking are the differences between the two, especially in terms of purpose, tone, and audience. Locke and Hughes wrote their essays during the heart of the Harlem Renaissance; 1925 and 1926, respectively. Both men were writing from that vantage point, and with a gaze set firmly on bettering the conditions of those they held in common – the Negro. But these similarities are, in a sense, superficial. After all, there were many writers in that era – any era really – both Black and White, who felt a moral imperative to right the racial wrongs of their time; to wring justice from the cloth of unwarranted suffering. The differences between Locke and Hughes, however, serve as a model; one that illustrates a chasm between the ideas and opinions of that era in terms of how to better their people, as well as why their condition is such that it needs tending. In “The New Negro,” Locke is saying that the so-called New Negro is already here – in fact, has been here for some time. And, by extension, he’s arguing for the integration – even assimilation – of Blacks into the larger pool that is America. This sentiment is expressed rather poignantly when he says, “The fiction is that the life of the races is separate, and increasingly so. The fact is that they have touched too closely at the unfavorable and too lightly at the favorable levels.” (20) And it is further strengthened when he says, “We realize that we cannot be undone without America’s undoing.” (22) That statement holds equally true if one were to rearrange it to read, “America cannot be undone without our undoing.” Locke has, whether happily or not, acknowledged that the Negro race – for better or for worse, and until death do they part – is indeed married to...
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