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Racial Mountain

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The Racial Mountain

What is the Harlem Renaissance? The Harlem Renaissance was a movement that was prompted by the advocacy of racial equality that began in the early 1920s and lasted into the 1930s. Also known as the “New Negro Movement”, the Renaissance was the development of African American culture, and was the most influential movement in African American literary history, cultural literature, and music, theatrical and visual arts. Participants such as Zora Neal Hurston, W.E.B. DuBoise, and Langston Hughes, among others sought to reconceptualize “the Negro” apart from the white stereotypes that had influenced African-American’s relationship to their heritage and to each other. In this paper we will discuss the contributions Langston Hughes made to the movement and his thought process and reasoning for doing so. Langston Hughes was an African-American poet and writer whose literary works became well known during the era of the Harlem Renaissance. Hughes’ father was a lawyer who had moved to Mexico not long after he was born to escape the racism in America leaving Hughes to be raised by his mother, a schoolteacher, and his grandmother. After graduating high school he attended a year of college at Columbia University but would later return to Lincoln University where he would complete his college education. He wrote many different works of literature such as The New Negro and The Weary Blues but it was his novel Not Without Laughter that would solidify his reputation in the Negro community. By the late 1930s he had a hand in drama production and screenwriting, and had started writing his own autobiography. His literary works helped shape American literature and politics, like others active in the Harlem Renaissance, Hughes had a strong sense of racial pride and “…urged African American artists to embrace black popular culture” (Baym 806). “His mother spent most of his childhood searching for employment, so Hughes was raised by his grandmother. It was through her that he learned the oral African-American tradition of storytelling his grandmother also created a home of racial pride” (ME), this is where he drew strengths and beliefs that built the foundation for his poetry and literature. Like anyone else, his up bringing is what determined his minds state, and how perceived things and perhaps why he felt it was his duty to conquer racism and the hatred that his people felt for themselves. It was with his writings that he wanted to get through to people by promoting pride and equality, and criticize the injustice and racism in America. Hughes thought of his father as a hateful and an unpleasant person, because of the self hate he had for himself and the disgust he felt for his race. "I had been thinking about my father and his strange dislike of his own people. I didn 't understand it, because I was a Negro, and I liked Negroes very much." (Hughes 1), this over time inadvertently sparked a rage in Hughes because he felt as if his own father didn’t like him which would lead to his most contentious writing.

His most controversial literature was The Negro Artist and the Racial Mountain, published during peak of the Harlem Renaissance. He believed that only great poets were themselves a black poet should want to be a black poet and should be proud to do so. “One of the most promising of the young Negro poets said to me once, “I want to be a poet—not a Negro poet,” meaning, I believe, “I want to write like a white poet”; meaning subconsciously, “I would like to be a white poet”; meaning behind that, “I would like to be white.”” (Hughes 2) He then goes on to explain how being raised by “Negro middle class” parents has warped his mentality, putting him a box of standardization, by constantly being advised to “don’t be like Niggers’’ (Hughes 2) when behaving inappropriately and “look how well a white man does thing” (Hughes 2), to imply that the way whites do things were superior. Sub conscientiously the young poet automatically thinks that being white is the right way and inadvertently frowns upon his own culture, and the more white characteristics he exemplifies, the better off he will be accepted by American society and its standards. Hughes wanted black artists in America to stop being brainwashed imitating whites and break the mold and create their own footprints by extracting inspiration and pride from African American culture. Through his poetry, novels, plays, essays, his intent was to promote equality, criticize racism and injustice, and celebrate African American culture, humor, and spirituality. “He spoke often in his poetry about America and the American dream and the difficulty people had grasping it” (ME). The American dream was an ideology of equality, prosperity and opportunity.
Works Cited Baym, Nina. The Norton Anthology of American Literature.: Package 2 : 1865 to the Present. London: W W Norton &, 2007. Print. (1) Hughes, Langston. The Big Sea: An Autobiography. New York: Hill and Wang, 1963. Print (2) Hughes, Langston. "The Negro Artist and the Racial Mountain (1926)." The Negro Artist and the Racial Mountain by Langston Hughes. Poetry Foundation, 09 Oct. 2009. Web. 20 Apr. 2013. ME, Augmented. "Langston Hughes and the Harlem Renaissance." YouTube. YouTube, 17 June 2008. Web. 01 May 2013

Cited: Baym, Nina. The Norton Anthology of American Literature.: Package 2 : 1865 to the Present. London: W W Norton &, 2007. Print.   (1) Hughes, Langston. The Big Sea: An Autobiography. New York: Hill and Wang, 1963. Print   (2) Hughes, Langston. "The Negro Artist and the Racial Mountain (1926)." The Negro Artist and the Racial Mountain by Langston Hughes. Poetry Foundation, 09 Oct. 2009. Web. 20 Apr. 2013.   ME, Augmented. "Langston Hughes and the Harlem Renaissance." YouTube. YouTube, 17 June 2008. Web. 01 May 2013

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