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20100223-1230 Hughes, McKay, and Cullen (Group 2)

Page history last edited by Brian Croxall 10 years, 9 months ago



The Harlem Renaissance had different purposes, whether it was to uplift the “race;” to create art by African Americans; or to create art about African Americans and the black experience, without whitewashing the description. However, the idea of “race” is somewhat ambiguous, as in Passing, where the characters seem to struggle to figure out racial identities. These differing opinions in the purpose of the Harlem Renaissance are also exhibited by the authors discussed in today's class.  


Langston Hughes expresses the emerging fascination with the African American race in his poem, "Note on Commercial Theatre." White people at that time had begun adapting African stories and music in order to better fit white audiences. In this poem, Hughes makes a point that his history is worth exploring. He isn't trying to create an image of perfection but wants to portray what really happened--the good with the bad--without white-washing the black experience.


Hughes' poem "The Negro Speaks of Rivers" echoes poet Walt Whitman.  Both poets feel joined to the collective experience of humanity throughout time.  Hughes travels from to the first civilizations up to modern day, connecting the blacks of America back to the building of the pyramids.  Just like Whitman, Hughes' poem has no form, long lines, and uses personal pronouns. 


Mckay's poem "The Lynching" is a sonnet.  Although modernism is about getting rid of tradition, McKay uses an old form of poetry to talk about something new.  This poem sounds like Christ's Crucifixion, creating a parallel of a lynching to the death of Christ.  The ninth line indicates a shift from night (poetic language) to day (matter of fact language).  At the end of the poem there is no blame put upon the crowd because lynching is natural during this time and is a normal event in culture. 



Word Count: 300




"From The Negro Artist and the Racial Mountain," Langston Hughes - "We younger Negro artists who create now intend to express our individual dark-skinned selves without fear or shame. If white people are pleased we are glad. If they are not, it doesn't matter. We know we are beautiful. And ugly too."

This passage expresses Hughes' feelings about his history. He wants to make sure that history is told truthfully and without alteration. By claiming that his race is beautiful and "ugly too," Hughes is attempting to illustrate the truth or his race without it being white-washed.


"The Weary Blues," Langston Hughes - "Droning a drowsy syncopated tune,/ Rocking back and forth to a mellow croon,/ I heard a Negro play."

These first three lines of the poem would seem to be in reference to the one playing the instrument, but in reality it is the speaker/writer that is "rocking back and forth." This is odd, but it seems to put the singer/player and the speaker/writer as equals. This confusion of roles in the beginning lines creates a connection between these two men that the reader will not recognize til the third line of the poem.


"I, Too", Langston Hughes- "I, too, sing America. /I am the darker brother./ They send me to eat in the kitchen/ When company comes," This is another poem of Hughes' that reflects Whitman's style. Hughes uses personal pronouns and a collective experience to tell the story of this poem. Whitman also writes "Song of Myself" and Hughes' says "I, too, sing American" meaning I am just as American as any white person.




Key Terms


syncopated- in music, a stress on a normally unstressed beat or a rest where there would normally be a stress. 


Comments (3)

amaliek@... said

at 1:48 pm on Feb 24, 2010

Hey group! I went through and added a few passages and another summary but I made sure to leave room for everyone else to add. I'll check back later tonight and see what was added and if need be I will fill in some more blanks and I hope yall do the same for my summaries as well. Good luck studying for the mid-term!

vjackso said

at 7:38 pm on Feb 24, 2010

well i had to take some out of the summary because it can only be 300 words maximum. so it was over the word count. but if anyone wants to take more out and add something different, feel free.

Brian Croxall said

at 5:11 pm on Feb 26, 2010

This is the best set of notes for this day of class that I have seen out of the three sections. You do a nice job figuring out how to talk about as many poems as possible by using your space in the summary and passages effectively. In the summary I especially appreciate how you make sure to include the information about the Harlem Renaissance. Thinking about how each of these poets related to this larger movement was what I was hoping to accomplish in the class, and your summary reflects this. It's worth noting, however, that simply the use of the personal pronoun is not enough to compare someone to Whitman. Instead, it's the predominance of the personal pronoun. Whitman uses it a LOT and at the beginning of lines, and we see Hughes doing the same thing in "The Negro Speaks of Rivers."

I was glad to see you include part of Hughes's essay in the passages. It's a great line for showing his desire to simply represent black experience in all its shapes and sizes. In your discussion of "I, Too," I think it would have been important to point out how Whitman emphasized democracy and Hughes's poem is pointing out how democracy hasn't been even thus far. And finally, in "Weary Blues," you make the comparison between poet and player, but I think I would have added one more sentence to point back to Hughes's desire to be influenced by jazz.

But these are all small points. Overall, this is very well done.

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