Colorism Within the Harlem Renaissance

2864 Words Dec 23rd, 2012 12 Pages
Jatoria Nicholson
Dr. West
ENG 4903.01
6 December 2012
Colorism within the Harlem Renaissance Within any group of people there is always going to be some form of judgment and African American people of the early twentieth century Harlem are no different. Throughout this course students have been immersed into the culture of 1920s Harlem and through this immersion many significant issues have surfaced from the artist of the time period. A major issue that has been repetitive throughout all forms of art during this period is colorism. Colorism which can also be called color conscientiousness, intra-racism, being color-struck, or having a color complex is a long standing epidemic focusing on physical appearance with a large concentration on
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Historical archives discovered by Dorman show that colorism had tangible boundaries within the African American community during the 1920s (47). It is stated that blacks often divided themselves into four subcategories which consisted of “black”, “brown”, “light brown”, and “yellow” Negros (Dorman 47). The above ranking would be listed in a hierarchy from “black” being at the bottom of the socially accepted hierarchy to the “yellow negro” being the most revered and desired socially. As the research continues it becomes ever more important to discuss how exactly the differing pigmentation of one race of people actually occurs, because I feel that it has an effect on the way colorism is handled throughout the African American community. There are two ways in which a person of African descent can be of a lighter complexion; the first being amalgamation, which is the coming together of both the black and white races and reproducing to make a mulatto or mixed race child and the second is the use of cosmetic creams in attempt to bleach one’s skin until they too appear mulatto (Dorman 48). This is relevant because, it shows the extremes that people are willing to go to reach the highest plateau of social acceptance. Many of these creams were painful acidic chemicals slowly burning away the pigmentation as people slept, while others were considered mild abrasive materials used to “gently” scrape away dark pigments (Dorman

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