1917-1935 The Harlem Renaissance
Famous Authors: CounteeCullen Langston Hughes Zora Neale Hurston Nella Larsen Claude McKay • A literary movement that treated black themes, African American history, and folklore. • Its center was Harlem, an area of New York City that had a large black population. • Its artists and writers were African Americans who believed in black pride and the oral idiom of black spoken speech. • It brought a new self-awareness and critical respect to black literature; attracted a white audience.
Jazz and blues flourished during this time. • Addressed issues of race, class, religion, and gender. • Some focused entirely on black characters; others addressed relationships between all races. • Some attacked racism; others addressed issues in black communities.
Langston Hughes 1902-1967
Biography • Born in Missouri; grew up in Kansas • Lived w/ grandmother • Moved to Illinois and Ohio when grandmother died • Lived with mother and step-father • Attended Columbia University • Worked in Africa • Lived in Mexico, France, and Italy • Spoke German and Spanish
Writing • Discovered by a poet • Hughes was a busboy at a restaurant; he left three poems near an established poet’s plate • Wrote poems specifically for jazz accompaniment • His work is an attempt to “explain and illuminate the Negro condition in America”
Claude McKay 1890-1948
Biography • Born in Jamaica • 8th child of farming family • When he was 9, he moved in with older brother • Moved to Harlem in 1914 • Opened restaurant with friend • It failed • Supported himself as janitor, butler, etc while writing. • Lived abroad (France/Russia) from 1922-1934 • Became disillusioned with communism • Moved back to US, taught in Catholic schools in Chicago
Writing • Wrote poems in Jamaican dialect of English • Published two collections with help of a friend • Concentrated on writing fiction and essays in France • Published four novels • His sonnets (14 line poems) voice his ambivalent and often defiant feelings about African American life in the United States.