Harlem Renaissance ESSAY QUESTIONS

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How did Alain Locke and Langston Hughes represent different attitudes toward the role of African-American writers? Give some examples from specific works to support your ideas.
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Alain Locke praised African-American culture. He became the leading authority on modern African-American culture. He believed strongly in “cultural pluralism,” which valued the uniqueness of different styles and values in a democratic society. He used this position to promote the careers of young black artists and encouraged them to seek out subjects in African-American life and to set high artistic standards for themselves. For example, in Locke’s famous short story “Harlem,” he uses this story to show the positive sides of Harlem. He shows Harlem as a place with great significance. He expresses the idea throughout that Harlem has a flourishing African-American culture. He uses the words, “The New Negro,” throughout as how the modernized Harlem gives black people many new opportunities. On the other hand, Langston Hughes showed the culture of Harlem for what it actually was and to represent African Americans objectively. Hughes used the country’s disenfranchised in his writings (African Americans, Natives, immigrants) and wrote about the glories of liberty and equality. Recurring themes of his were oppression, prejudice, and poverty and believed radical consciousness was the source of inspiration for black artists. Hughes’ poems were darker and showed the real issues that African Americans faced. For instance in “Note on Commercial Theatre,” Hughes says that white people have essentially taken away African American culture and misrepresent them. Similarly, in “Slave on the Block,” he shows that many whites during the time were infatuated with black culture but not the people themselves. In the “Slave on the Block,” Hughes depicts the flaws of both the Carraways and Luther and Mattie. The Carraways are a symbol of white culture and insult Luther and Mattie because there are oblivious of their racism. However, Luther and Mattie are also a part of a problem; they are depicted as children, misbehaved and taking advantage of the new freedom they have found.
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Claude McKay felt that capitalism was part of racial injustice. Explain his ideas and how they influenced his life and his work. Reference particular works in your response.
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Claude McKay’s felt that capitalism was inseparable and dependent on racism . For that reason Mckay saw that capitalism was designed to perpetuate economic inequality as it used racist ideologies to separate and discriminate workers. He believed by attacking capitalism he was also indirectly attacking racial prejudice. Mckays ideology influenced his life because it brought him to England where his radical politics was celebrated. Moreover, it led Mckay into becoming a communist with his connections to the Communist regime in Russia. His works focused on radical politics and also reflected his view against economic and racial inequality under the corrupt government. In his writing Mckay wrote about the deteriorating position of African Americans. In his poem ” The Harlem Dancer” he gives an example of how economic deprivation led an African American women to unwillingly become a prostitute and devalue her morals. The dancer’s secret dissatisfaction of her occupation and the desperation for survival is clearly seen when she falsely smiles to her moves. The way she sways like a palm tree symbolize her growing strength she needs to live a capitalist, racist society. The drunk throw money at her as if she were an object and again the theme of capitalism and racial injustice depicts the struggles African American faced to simply make ends meet.
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Discuss the literary techniques used by Langston Hughes in his work with specific examples from specific poems.
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Hughes modeled his stanzas on improvisational rhythms. He is most known for incorporating Blues and Jazz styles and black speech into his poems to write about oppression and poverty. In “Mulatto” he uses Blues and Jazz styles to depict the sad, stinging conversation between a boy and his father, who does not want to recognize the boy as his son because he is mulatto and is not fully white. It showed the hurt perspective of the boy through colloquial speech and the theme that African Americans just wanted the same opportunities as everyone else. “Song for a Dark Girl” is formatted in a song and uses Biblical references to depict the common scene of the time of seeing the lynching of African Americans. It expresses that African Americans feel as though their prayers are not being answered and they have no one to turn to. “Note on Commercial Theatre” Hughes again uses black speech to express the discontent of African Americans over the cultural appropriation taking place. White people are not portraying African Americans accurately in the media (and only write about them for financial gains) and are stealing essential parts of their culture such as blues. It ends with the speaker hoping that one day they will accurately represent African Americans and their experiences.

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