Harlem Renaissance was a social, artistic and intellectual wave of expressions by oppressed African-Americans spanning the nineteen twenties. It took place in Harlem, Manhattan, New York. The movement was previously known as The New Negro Movement. This name was gotten through Alan Locke’s anthology in the nineteen twenty five titled The New Negro (Harlem Renaissance | Definition, Artists, Writers, Poems, Literature, & Facts, 2020).
Various writers contributed their thoughts towards this movement. This paper focuses on the work of Claude McKay, Langston Hughes, Countee Cullen and Zora Neale Hurston in analysing the theme of Harlem Renaissance.
Claude McKay wrote a number of writings. His works include The Harlem Dancer, Harlem Shadows, The Lynching, If We Must Die and America. In The Harlem Dancer (The Harlem Dancer by Claude McKay. James Weldon Johnson, ed. 1922. The Book of American Negro Poetry, 2020), McKay brings to the fore the aspect of human dignity by telling the story of the girl dancing in a night club. She is black and the speaker in the poem sympathises with her situation. In the poem also, he does not objectify her but gives her a sense of dignity despite her occupation and skin colour.
In Harlem Shadows, there is an aspect of revolutionary ideas being presented. The poet was even taunted to be key to the renaissance through the thematic concerns of political realities that people of colour face (Rumens, 2020). The discrimination that they go through. The Lynching, If We Must Die and America all present the themes that the Harlem Renaissance addresses. Harlem Renaissance seeks equality for African-American people who face numerous challenges.
The contributions of Langston Hughes can be found in his writings. The writings are The Negro Speaks of The River, Mother To Son, I Too, The Weary Blues, Mulatto and Son For a Dark Girl. Across the named pieces the issue of oppression is witnessed throughout. The plight of the African-Americans is showcased. Langston utilizes his skills to articulate the sufferings of black people. The renaissance is all about the sufferings that the black people go through in the hands of white supremacists (Langston Hughes | Poetry Foundation, 2020).
Cullen’s work on the theme of Harlem Renaissance can be seen through the following two writings. They are Yet Do I Marvel and Incident. Cullen in an artistic way expresses the issues of African-Americans. Yet Do I Marvel in an artistic way tells it audience the struggles of being black and a poet. It also presents the idea of God being in control of all that happens to beings and connects it with the struggles of being black (Yet Do I Marvel by Countee Cullen, 2020). In the Incident, the speaker presents racial discrimination of a child who was nice to the stranger and the word nigger being used on him (Incident by Countee Cullen, 2020). Such discriminations are what the Renaissance seeks to address.
Zora Neale Hurston
How It Feels To be Coloured Me and The Glided Six-Bits are the two pieces that Hurston worked on as pertaining the theme of Harlem Renaissance. How it feels to be coloured at first reading its title highlights someone who want to tell you the dread that one goes through just because of their colour. It seeks a redress on the issue of discrimination and by telling how he feels, the speaker is able to carry with him his audience (Hurston, 1928). In The Glided Six-Bits the issue of racial discriminations is also highlighted by Hurston. The description of the yard as Negro yard rather than just yard shows the separations based on race (The Gilded Six-Bits, A Short Story by Zora Neale Hurston, 2020).
All the writers in different forms and artistic ways contribute towards the Harlem Renaissance by expressing either from first hand experience or observation the struggles of being black. This spurs on the renaissance as it shows the magnitude of the discrimination.