Langston Hughes was one of the most influential writers during the Harlem
Renaissance. He was born on February 1, 1902 to his parents, James Nathaniel Hughes
and Caroline Mercer Langston. Soon after his birth they separated and he lived with his
grandmother until she died when he was in his early teens. He was known to use the
rhythm of Black African music in his poems and inspired many African and White
Americans through the numerous amounts of poetry he has written. His poetry
Was written about his pride in his heritage and his dislike with the oppression he saw.
The Harlem Renaissance was a period from 1918-1937, although a scholar from
Temple University thought it began much earlier. According to the book, ‘A
Renaissance in Harlem, the scholar from Temple University thought that it began
as soon as the slaves starting coming north. He thought that it was only noticed
a century later when the Arts started showing in the buildings of Harlem. Langston
Hughes cited the Harlem Renaissance as a “period when Harlem was in Vogue.”
(Williams 9) It was a time when African American culture
got really big, especially in the creative arts. Many of the writers of this time called
the Harlem Renaissance ‘Negro Renaissance’ or the ‘New Negro Renaissance’ because
it wasn’t just Harlem where the African American Arts were becoming big.
According to the book, ‘A Renaissance in Harlem: Lost Voices of an American
Community’, the Harlem Renaissance had started after Prohibition and slowed down
after 1929, when the stock market crashed. Most people believe that it was decades of
a time in Harlem in all areas of art. Dance, Theater and Visual Arts were becoming
very big in Harlem, but it was the literature that really blossomed during this period. The
influential writers during this time didn’t only see their writings changing that of African
Americans, but also of white American culture, as well. Many white Americans felt that
African culture had more emotion than theirs and it was during this period that they
really noticed this. While the Harlem Renaissance may have started in Harlem, it really
took place in many other areas throughout the country.
During this time there were many different types of writings. Poetry was one of the
biggest styles. The authors wrote about their social pride and the equality that they
wanted in this country. Langston Hughes and others used music and songs in their
poetry. Claude McKay, another famous writer during this time would write sonnets to
attack the racial violence that was happening.
There were many other authors that became well known during the Harlem
Renaissance. Some of the most well known ones were W.E.B. DuBois, Jessi Redmon
Fauset (a literary Editor), Countee Cullen, Claude Mckay, Jean Toomer and Dr. Alain
Locke. The movement had 2 anthologies- ‘The Book of American Negro Poetry’ by
James Weldon Johnson and ‘The New Negro’ by Alain Locke. Alain Locke described
the Harlem Renaissance as “a spiritual coming of age”, meaning that the black
community could seize the chance to express themselves through the arts. He was known
as the God father of the Harlem Renaissance and came up with the term, ‘The New
Negro’. On page 16, of ‘A Renaissance to Harlem’, Dr. Alain Locke was quoted saying
“Harlem has the same role to play for the New Negro as Dublin has had for the New
Ireland or Prague for the new Czechoslovakia.” He was trying to say how much
influence Harlem can have on the arts for African Americans. When Dr. Alain Locke
was asked to edit an issue of...
Cited: Rowen, Beth and Borgna, Brunner. “Great Days in Harlem: The Birth of the Harlem
Renaissance.” Infoplease/Pearson Education, 2007.
Bascom, Lionel. “Lost Voices of an American Community” Avon/HarperCollins,
Publishers, Inc. 2001.
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