The Harlem Renaissance: Writers Reacting To Their Political Environment

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The Harlem Renaissance emerged during turbulent times for the world, the United States, and black Americans. World War I and the Bolshevik Revolution of 1917 had left the world in disorder and stimulated anticolonial movements throughout the third world. In America, twenty years of progressive reform ended with the red scare, race riots, and isolationism throughout 1919 and led to conservative administrations through the twenties. While blacks were stunned by racial violence near the end of the decade and were frustrated by the lack of racial progress that progressivism had made, they were now armed with new civil rights organizations and confronted the approaching decade with new hope and determination. Education and employment …show more content…
While the Harlem Renaissance was not a political movement, its participants were affected by the political world around them and responded in varying ways to their political environment.
     Perhaps the most direct way that black writers addressed political issues was through political and protest writings. Claude McKay’s 1919 sonnet “If We Must Die” expressed his anger toward the race riots of 1919 and urged blacks to respond with violence when confronted with force, working against the odds and gaining dignity through their struggles. He writes, “Like men we’ll face the murderous pack, / Pressed to the wall, dying, but fighting back!”3 Similarly, Langston Hughes made protest a significant element in his works, especially in his somewhat radical poetry of the early 1930’s. “Because I am the white man’s son, his own / Bearing his bastard birth-mark on my face, / I will dispute his title to the throne, / Forever fight him for my rightful place.”4 wrote Hughes in his poem “Mulatto”. Throughout his poetry, he directly and indirectly referred to vigorous hatred for the white man, of his people’s dreams deferred too long. He used literature to protest the inequality faced by blacks nationwide. James Weldon
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