Nella Larsen's Prove It On Me: The New Negro Movement

1187 Words5 Pages
“No one here can love and understand me/Oh, what hard-luck stories they all hand me/You'd better make my bed/And light the light, I'll arrive late tonight/Black bird, bye-bye, goodbye.” –Bye Bye Blackbird by Ella Fitzgerald The 1920’s, despite being commonly thought of as the party decade characterized by speakeasies and women liberated from tight-laced corsetry, was an era of rigid identifiers. Though the country underwent radical changes, these changes also served as the means to reinforce racial, sexual, and cultural parameters. Starting early into the twentieth century, the New Negro movement rapidly took off and fostered a grand shift into black-oriented and specialized uplift and renown, from within the black community. During this…show more content…
‘New Negro’ was a social and cultural movement within the black community that spanned from the nineteen-tens into the nineteen-thirties. This movement marked a significant shift in the black identity, as it was a collective effort for self-redefinition. Scholar Erin D. Chapman in her work Prove It on Me: New Negroes, Sex, and Popular Culture in the 1920s asserts that New Negroes sought to redefine themselves and their social positions through active participation in producing, consuming, and commodifying in the “interracial arena of social communication and negotiation.” (7) This newfound power over image and boundaries did not necessarily mean that power over the black public discourse and re-edification belonged to the community as a whole; in fact, black women were saddled with a new role that was rather constricting. Cherene Sherrard-Johnson claims that, “The New Negro woman, styled as the ideal template for measuring black femininity, [was] a constrained throwback to Victorian womanhood” (840). Chapman’s assessment of New Negro womanhood coincides with Sherrard-Johnson’s perception; the former extensively discusses the constricting expectation of the ideal ‘race motherhood’—which required black women to wholly devote all of their time, energy, and ability into creating and maintaining a stable, exceptional, and modern, black household to do her part in collective racial uplift (Chapman

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