1865 1919 the reconstruction through the new negro renaissance l.
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1865 1919 the reconstruction through the new negro renaissance
1865-1919: The Reconstruction through the “New Negro” Renaissance

A Man Was Lynched Yesterday.Fifth Avenue, New York City, c. 1938.

NAACP Collection, Library of Congress

emancipation the hopes
Emancipation: the hopes…

Thomas Nast, “Emancipation.” 1865.

versus the realities

Versus the realities

versus the realities

Right: Ida B. Wells, “Kentucky’s Crime” Richmond Planet, 1893.

Left: Nast, “The Union as it Was.” Harper’s, 1874

some tough questions raised by reconstruction
Some tough questions raised by Reconstruction…

#8 Constructing identity as free American citizens

  • What should free people of color do with the slave past?
    • Is it shameful and worth forgetting?
    • Is it heroic and worth celebrating?
    • Or is it even really past?
  • What’s the best way to engage in the rituals of citizenship?
    • Should rights be demanded and fought for?
    • Or should they be patiently waited for?
  • What will African Americans contribute to the nation?
    • Labor and entrepreneurship?
    • Art (literary, visual, music, etc)?
    • Political and/or moral leadership?
2 what s the best way to resist new forms of oppression
#2 What’s the best way to resist new forms of oppression?
  • How can “racial progress” (or “uplift?) be made in order to achieve equality?
    • Through higher education and creation of great art?
    • Or through modesty and hard work in the trades?
  • What’s the role of literature and art in the fight for equal rights?
    • To call attention to injustice?
    • To prove Black humanity and intelligence?
    • Propaganda for civil rights?
    • Or maybe it’s not all that important?
ida b wells
Ida B. Wells

“One had better die fighting against injustice than die like a dog or a rat in a trap.”

#2 Strategies of resistance
  • What strategies does Wells-Barnett use to resist

lynching and injustice?

  • What strategies does she advocate?

#6 The “unspeakable unspoken”

  • How does Wells-Barnett treat “unspeakable” topics?
  • What seems to be her relationship to silence?

#10 The role of literary hybridity

  • In what ways might Wells-Barnett’s text be considered

a kind of “hybrid” form? Is this new, or is it something

we have already seen? What purpose does it serve?

#11 The American Joke

Note the ways in which Wells-Barnett calls attention to irony,

paradox, and inconsistencies in the nation.

for tomorrow charles chesnutt r 3 the wife of his youth only
For tomorrow: Charles Chesnutt & R#3(“The Wife of His Youth” only)

#4 Signifying

  • What is his attitude toward his characters and the “Blue Vein” society?

#6 The unspeakable unspoken

  • What do the characters avoid speaking of?

#7 What is“Blackness” here?

#8 How do the characters construct their identities?

Also: think about the question of what should newly free African Americans do with the past?

charles chesnutt

Heads up…

  • Survey online for bonus.
  • Project #1 due Friday.
  • Blues presentation tomorrow.
Charles Chesnutt

“The object of my writing would not be so much the elevation of the colored people as the elevation of the whites--for I consider the unjust spirit of caste. . . a barrier to the moral progress of the American people”


#4 What is Chesnutt signifying on?

    • What is his attitude towards characters?
  • #6 What is “unspeakable” for these characters?

#7 What does Chesnutt seem to

be saying about “Blackness”?

#8 What does the story reveal about identity

construction after emancipation?

  • What questions are raised about the role

of the past in a person’s identity?

signifying based on esu the trickster
Signifyingbased on Esu, the trickster
  • A Yoruba Orisha(god)
    • Trickster, mischief maker, challenger of orthodoxy, disguise artist. 1
    • God of the crossroads.
    • “He who sees him does not know him. He who knows him does not see him.” 1
    • “the mythic embodiment of ambiguity and ambivalence, doubleness and duplicity, contradiction and paradox”2

1. EdzoieUdeze, “Demystifying Esu” The Nation (Nigeria).

2. Lewis Hyde, Trickster Makes this World, 1998.

esu imported to the u s
Esu imported to the U.S.
  • “Signifying Monkey” in vernacular tradition
  • Henry Louis Gates, Jr. (Harvard Lit scholar)
    • Signifying is the “strategy of black figurative language use”
      • Complex, multiple meanings
        • The “double voice”
        • Repetition with difference or reversal
        • Word play
      • Often uses metaphor, irony, hyperbole, etc.
    • Effects of signifying
      • Undermines authority or hierarchy.
      • Symbolic liberation from oppression.
      • “Secret” communication, indirection.

another American version of Esu

examples of signifying in what we ve read
Examples of signifying* in what we’ve read?

Harriet Jacobs Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl

Frederick Douglass Narrative of the Life

Ida B. Wells “The Red Record”

Charles Chesnutt “The Wife of His Youth”

*Figurative language

  • Double voice
  • Repetition with difference
  • Word play
  • Metaphor, irony, hyperbole, etc.
  • Undermines authority
  • Liberates from oppression.
  • Indirection (saying without saying).
for tomorrow dunbar and johnson i 4
For tomorrow: Dunbar and Johnson & I#4

**ADD “When Malindy Sings” (916) and “Douglass” (925)

Key questions

# 4 Signifying

#3 The vernacular tradition

#10 Performativity

paul laurence dunbar
Paul Laurence Dunbar

“People are taking it for granted that [the Negro] ought not to work with his head. And it is so easy for these people among whom we are living to believe this; it flatters and satisfies their self-complacency.”

James Weldon Johnson

  • “The final measure of the greatness of all peoples is the amount and standard of the literature and all they have produced.
for tomorrow booker t washington w e b dubois and r 4
For tomorrow: Booker T. Washington, W.E.B. DuBois and R#4

#2 Strategies of resistance

#5 The role of writing

#8 Identity construction


#1. Extraliterary expectations

(i.e. they were expected to do more than just write beautiful or entertaining prose…what?)

booker t washington
Booker T. Washington

“Dignify and glorify common labor. It is at the bottom of life that we must begin, not at the top.”


  • “Until the art of the black folk compels recognition they will not be rated as human”
not used in class
Extra images

(not used in class)


“This composite of thirteen scenes pertaining to African American history from 1619 to 1897, though not wholly accurate (for example, Attucks' first name was Crispus, not Christopher), provides a brief historical overview of the African American quest for full citizenship, particularly participation in the Revolutionary War and the political arena. This poster was published for the Tennessee Centennial Exposition in Nashville in 1897. A picture of the "Negro Exposition Building" is on the lower, right-hand side of the poster.”

From the Library of Congress