Harlem Renaissance Literary Movement
Harlem Renaissance Literary Movement

Harlem Renaissance Literary Movement

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  • Pages: 3 (1494 words)
  • Published: November 2, 2021
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If We Must Die- Claude McKay

McKay serves as one of the primary figures in the 1920s, during the Harlem Renaissance literary movement. His poetic works focused mostly on celebrating the life of peasants in America and also challenging the white authority within the nation (Poetry Foundation). McKay served in the Harlem Renaissance period with his literary world focused on influencing and motivating the blacks as a member of the minority community in coping with a racist society.

In the short poem, ‘If We Must Die,’ the poem is focused on the death of the speaker where the speaker recognizes that death is inevitable. Although the speaker is aware that death is inevitable, he wants to face an honorable death. The first four lines of the poem serve in portraying the fears of the speaker together with his allies that they are under attack that will lead to death. According to McKay asserts that “if we must die, it should not occur like hogs, hunted and equally penned in an inglorious spot… if we must die, let us face a noble death (1-5).”

Although the speaker begins by persuading his allies to remain strong in t

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he fight, he changes his tone by introducing an emotional message of the allies to die an honorable death. The speaker calls on the allies to continue fighting back despite the fact that they hold no chance of winning. The last two lines of the poem serve as an indication that the speaker agrees that they are going to die, but after fighting back like men. Coming from a minority black community, the poem by McKay is indicative of his personal life and the hardships that people from the black minority encountered during the period of Harlem Renaissance.

People – Jean Toomer

Like McKay, Toomer equally served in the Harlem Renaissance period with his literary world focused on influencing and motivating the blacks as a member of the minority community on how to cope in a racist society. The short poem ‘People,’ Toomer the poet examines the tendency of people focusing on appearance. Other than only focusing on his black color, the poet asserts that “to those who are fixed on white the white remains white in the same manner red is red and yellow is yellow (2-5).” The poet further moves ahead to argue that people that see the world in such a way never sees themselves (11). The statement by the poet serves in describing the social attitude in a blatant manner regarding the differences in race in America. The poet addresses instinctual duality that he considered crucial to the efforts of black individuals in coping in a racist society (Poetry Foundation).

Zora Neale Hurston – The Gilded Six-Bits

As with the previously discussed authors, Hurston lived and wrote his literary works during the Harlem Renaissance. Hurston was deemed an important author during the Harlem Renaissance in that

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other than only coming from the minority community of African Americans; her writings provided a feminine voice that in a movement that men dominated. ‘The Gilded Six-Bits’ is a short story that focuses on the life of a newly married African-American couple and their obstacles towards achieving happiness that was driven by disrespect and the desire for money.
The setting of the short story is indicative of the author’s recognition of the importance of acceptance of all races within the American society. The story is set in Eatonville, Florida, a town that served as the first of all black towns within the U.S to incorporate in the country. Joe and Missie May are a newlywed African American couple experiences joy at first until their Otis Slemmons wreak havoc to their marriage. “The trouble begins when Joe makes an announcement that he will take his wife for a date in a place that Slemmons, a wealthy northern African American owned (36).” It is after visiting the ice cream parlor, and the trouble creeps in when Slemmons starts chasing his wife and promises her money in return for sex. As Joe comes home one day from work, he finds the two in bed with the realization turning his home sour.

Langston Hughes – I, too Sing America

Like the previously discussed authors, Langston Hughes also existed during the Harlem Renaissance era with his literary work equally considered imperative in airing the views and concerns of African American. In the short poem, ‘I too Sing America’ the poet declares the need for America to return back to its previous state in order to enhance in achieving the dreams of the forefathers. Hughes begins by asserting that, “America should be America again by becoming the dream that it once served where it operated as the pioneer of the plan that sought a home where they would become free (1-4).” The speaker portrays his dissatisfaction with the manner America has changed from her initial self-image where he asserts that to him America was never America. He thus calls for the need to take America to the position it was a strong and great land. The continuous repetition of the speaker that America is never America serves in not only portraying the dissatisfaction of the author but also of most of other African Americans that were adversely affected by racism.

Sterling Brown – Riverbank Blues

Although Brown was an African American writer during the Harlem Renaissance era and an influential author that represented the affairs of his fellow community men, he had a far much different life especially in his early bringing while compared to most of the other Harlem Renaissance authors. Born by a former slave and an eminent minister and also an educated mother, Brown had the opportunity of gaining the education at Williams College as well as Harvard. His literary works were however influenced by previous African American writers and his experience as a member of a minority community as a student in a dominant white society. The short poem, “Riverbank Blues’ primarily addresses the struggles that African Americans encountered in the mid-20th century in

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