F. Scott Fitzgerald • The 1920's, also known as the Jazz Age, were wild times, and Francis Scott Key Fitzgerald was its king. He coined the phrase “The Jazz Age,” and his short stories and novels captured the essence of the Roaring Twenties. • Fitzgerald was born on September 29, 1896 in St. Paul Minnesota. His prename, Francis Scott Key, was given to him to honor his distant ancestor who wrote the National Anthem. • In 1917, Fitzgerald joined the army to fight in World War I. In June of 1918, he was assigned to Camp Sheridan in Alabama. There, he fell in love with Zelda Sayre. After being turned down during a marriage proposal due to his lack of success, Fitzgerald returned to St. Paul to begin work on his novel, This Side of Paradise. • His novel was published in March of 1920, and he instantly became a success. He had gained the kind of success and wealth that he had desired for so long, and in a short time, he and Zelda married in New York. • When The Great Gatsby, his newest novel, was published in 1925, the sales were fairly disappointing, but theater and movie deals brought in more income. Fitzgerald's book depicted the golden life that many lead during the 1920's. In The Great Gastby, perhaps his greatest novel, he depicts the dreaming and what people do to reach dreams in the high society of the East coast though the eyes of Nick, a westerner. In this, he showed how this affluent society had a hollow core of pretense and emptiness, and how many of the "old money" were cruel and heartless. • By 1936, Fitzgerald was ill, drunk, and in debt. So he headed off to Hollywood in 1937 hoping to become a prominent screenplay writer. However, the only screen credit he received was for the film, Three Comrades. • Fitzgerald died from an unfortunate heart attack on December 21, 1940.
John Steinbeck • John Steinbeck was a novelist who wrote about the strength of poor migrant workers during the 1930s in his book, The Grapes of Wrath a novel widely considered to be a 20th-century classic. • American novelist, story writer, playwright, and essayist. John Steinbeck received the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1962. • John Steinbeck was born in Salinas, California in 1902. • Steinbeck's novels can all be classified as social novels dealing with the economic problems of rural labor. • His more serious fiction, often aggressive in its social criticism, to In Dubious Battle (1936), which deals with the strikes of the migratory fruit pickers on California plantations. This was followed by Of Mice and Men (1937), the story of the imbecile giant Lennie, and a series of admirable short stories collected in the volume The Long Valley (1938). In 1939 he published what is considered his best work, The Grapes of Wrath. • Among his later works should be mentioned East of Eden (1952), The Winter of Our Discontent (1961), and Travels with Charley (1962), a travelogue in which Steinbeck wrote about his impressions during a three-month tour in a truck that led him through forty American states. He died in New York City in 1968. • Steinbeck died of heart attack in New York on December 20, 1968.
The Harlem Renaissance In the early 1900s, particularly in the 1920s, African-American literature, art, music, dance, and social commentary began to flourish in Harlem, a section of New York City. This African-American cultural movement became known as "The New Negro Movement" and later as the Harlem Renaissance. More than a literary movement, the Harlem Renaissance exalted the unique culture of African-Americans and redefined African-American expression. African-Americans were encouraged to celebrate their heritage. The main factors contributing to the development of the Harlem Renaissance were African-American urban migration, trends toward experimentation throughout the country, and the rise of radical African-American intellectuals. The Harlem Renaissance transformed African-American identity and history, but it also transformed American culture in general. Never before had so many Americans read the thoughts of African-Americans and embraced the African-American community's productions, expressions, and style.
Countee Cullen • Poet, anthologist, novelist, translator, children'swriter, and playwright, Countee Cullen is something of a mysterious figure. • He was born 30 March 1903, but it has been difficult for scholars to place exactly where he was born • Sometime before 1918, Cullen was adopted by the Reverend Frederick A. and Carolyn Belle (Mitchell) Cullen. • Frederick Cullen was a pioneer black activist minister. He established his Salem Methodist Episcopal Church in a storefront mission upon his arrival in New York City in 1902, and in 1924 moved the Church to the site of a former white church in Harlem where he could boast of a membership of more than twenty-five hundred. • Cullen won more major literary prizes than any other black writer of the 1920s: first prize in the Witter Bynner Poetry contest in 1925, Poetry magazine's John Reed Memorial Prize, the Amy Spingarn Award of the Crisis magazine, second prize in Opportunity magazine's first poetry contest, and second prize in the poetry contest of Palms. In addition, he was the second black to win a Guggenheim Fellowship. • In his finest poem, “Heritage,” he shows his relationship to Africa. • For many years after his death from high blood pressure and uremic poisoning on 9 January 1946.
Countee Cullen Heritage (The first two stanzas of seven) What is Africa to me:Copper sun or scarlet sea,Jungle star or jungle track,Strong bronzed men, or regal blackWomen from whose loins I sprangWhen the birds of Eden sang?One three centuries removedFrom the scenes his fathers loved,Spicy grove, cinnamon tree,What is Africa to me? So I lie, who all day longWant no sound except the songSung by wild barbaric birdsGoading massive jungle herds,Juggernauts of flesh that passTrampling tall defiant grassWhere young forest lovers lie,Plighting troth beneath the sky.
Langston Hughes • Born in Joplin, Missouri, in 1902, Langston Hughes lived through a very lonely and unhappy childhood. Abandoned by his father's immigration to Mexico, Langston and his mother moved in with his grandmother in Lawrence, Kansas, when he was only a child. In 1915, his family moved to Cleveland, Ohio, where Hughes began publishing short stories and poems in the high-school magazine. Most of his works reflected his concerns with racial equality and social justice. • After Hughes graduated from high school, he spent a year in Mexico, a year at Columbia University, and traveled to Africa and Europe. Then in 1924, he moved to Harlem, New York. There, his first book of poetry, The Weary Blues, was published by Alfred A. Knopf in 1926. He later finished his college education at Lincoln University in Pennsylvania. • In 1927, Hughes' second volume of poetry, "Fine Clothes to the Jew," was published, and by 1929, he had established himself as one of the most prominent black poets of the Harlem Renaissance. His poetry was original in its honest and colorful portrayal of African American life. • While working as a columnist, Hughes created one of his most popular characters, Jesse B. Semple, also called "Simple", who was portrayed as the common black man. This character would turn up regularly in his columns. And soon enough, Hughes compiled his sketches of "Simple" and created a book, which was turned into an Off-Broadway musical. • In the twenty years before Hughes' unfortunate death in 1967, Hughes became one of the most prodigious writers of the Harlem Renaissance. He wrote Broadway musicals, short stories, long stories, a novel, five additional volumes of prose, an autobiography, and the highly acclaimed collection, Montage of a Dream Deferred, written in 1951. Langston Hughes was truly one of the most important poets of American literature. He was the first African- American author to support himself through his writing. • Langston Hughes died of cancer on May 22, 1967.
Langston Hughes I, Too, Sing America I, too, sing America. I am the darker brother. They send me to eat in the kitchen When company comes, But I laugh, And eat well, And grow strong. Tomorrow, I'll be at the table When company comes. Nobody'll dare Say to me, "Eat in the kitchen," Then. Besides, They'll see how beautiful I am And be ashamed-- I, too, am America. As I Grew Older It was a long time ago.I have almost forgotten my dream.But it was there then,In front of me,Bright like a sun--My dream.And then the wall rose,Rose slowly,Slowly,Between me and my dream.Rose until it touched the sky--The wall.Shadow.I am black.I lie down in the shadow.No longer the light of my dream before me,Above me.Only the thick wall.Only the shadow.My hands!My dark hands!Break through the wall!Find my dream!Help me to shatter this darkness,To smash this night,To break this shadowInto a thousand lights of sun,Into a thousand whirling dreamsOf sun!
Claude McKay was born in Jamaica, West Indies, in 1889. • McKay published a book of verse called Songs of Jamaica, recording his impressions of black life in Jamaica in dialect. • In 1912, he traveled to the United States to attend Tuskegee Institute. Claude McKay • Leaving to study agriculture at Kansas State University, he published two sonnets, "The Harlem Dancer" and "Invocation," in 1917, and would later use the same poetic form to record his reactionary views on the injustices of black life in America. In addition to social and political concerns, McKay wrote on a variety of subjects, from his Jamaican homeland to romantic love, with a use of passionate language. • In 1944, he eventually succumbed to congestive heart failure in Chicago. His second autobiography, My Green Hills of Jamaica, was published posthumously in 1979.
Claude McKay THE HARLEM DANCER APPLAUDING youths laughed with young prostitutes And watched her perfect, half-clothed body sway; Her voice was like the sound of blended flutes Blown by black players upon a picnic day. She sang and danced on gracefully and calm, The light gauze hanging loose about her form; To me she seemed a proudly-swaying palm Grown lovelier for passing through a storm. Upon her swarthy neck black, shiny curls Profusely fell; and, tossing coins in praise, The wine-flushed, bold-eyed boys, and even the girls, Devoured her with their eager, passionate gaze; But, looking at her falsely-smiling face I knew her self was not in that strange place.
Zora Neale Hurston • Zora Neale Hurston wrote novels, essays and short stories on black culture. • On January 7, 1891, Zora Neale Hurston was born in the tiny town of Notasulga, Alabama. • In 1904, thirteen-year-old Zora was devastated by the death of her mother. Later that same year, her father removed her from school and sent her to care for her brother's children. • She later attended Howard University. Although she spent nearly four years at Howard, she graduated with only a two-year Associates degree. Perhaps this is explained by the fact that Zora spent most of her time at Howard writing. • Traveling through the South she collected the folk tales, songs and prayers of black southerners and later published these in a collection titled Mules and Men. • She suffered a fatal stroke in 1959 and was buried at an unmarked grave in Fort Pierce, Florida. "I have been in sorrow's kitchen and licked out all the pots. Then I have stood on the peaky mountain wrapped in rainbows, with a harp and a sword in my hands." - ZNH
You Try • You MUST finish all questions before going on! • Go back to Langston Hughes’ two poems. • Read them aloud. • Write a poem about your dreams or your America. Place the completed ones on your poster with names on them.