| Writing was somewhat an escape for the African-American when life was troublesome. By the 1920s literature reached an explosion that became an integral part of the Harlem Renaissance. Here you will be able to meet some of the people who were a part of this literary movement, read some samples of works, and learn names of other popular writers for this time
| Click here to view some examples of poetry and prose of this era.|
|On this page, the following questions will be answered:|
- What book spoke of the "twoness'' between whites and minorities in the country?
- Who wrote the book mentioned in question one?
- Name two common themes in the Harlem Renaissance literature.
- What Harlem Renaissance writer was from Florida?
- Who wrote the poem "If We Must Die"?
| The Harlem Renaissance was sparked off truly when WEB DuBois put out a book called The Souls of Black Folks back in 1903 about the "twoness" in the United States. He stated that "One ever feels his two-ness - an American, a Negro; two souls, two thoughts, two unreconciled stirrings: two warring ideals in one dark body, whose dogged strength alone keeps it from being torn asunder." After this, it was evident that literature was definitely one art form that could bring the black people together. The common themes in these works were alienation and marginality, and folk and blues traditions were included.|
|Some prominent people to note: |
- Countee Cullen
- Langston Hughes
- Zora Neale Hurston
- Claude McKay
- Jean Toomer
||(1903-1946) Cullen, a New York native, was one of the major contributors to the Harlem Renaissance in the 1920's. His works conveyed life as he saw it. His collection of works called Color, printed in 1925, was accredited with putting the movement to a new height because of its abilities to shed light on social realities. Cullen was awarded the Witter Bynner Undergraduate Poetry Prize from New York University.|
|Some of his works include Copper Sun (1927), Color (1925), The Ballad of the Brown Girl (1927) and The Black Christ (1929).|
||(1902-1967) Langston is probably one of the best known of all Harlem Renaissance figures. The Joplin, Mississippi native grew up listening to stories about Frederick Douglass and Sojourner Truth when he was young; this led to his yearning to write. He moved to Harlem and attended Columbia University around the beginning of the movement. He later quit school and worked on a ship that traveled the world. Upon his return to New York, along with a collection of poetry, he knew he was home. Hughes continued to write his poetry, asorbing the jazz lyrics and African-American dialect he heard. His rhymes told about the struggle of the poverty-stricken blacks.|
|Some of his works include The Weary Blues (1926), The Negro Speaks of Rivers (1921), Fine Clothes to the Jew (1927) , Dear Lovely Death (1931), The Dream Keeper (1932), Scottsboro Limited (1932), Not Without Laughter (1930) ,Popo and Fifina (1932), The Ways of White Folks (1934), and The Big Sea (1940).|
|Zora Neale Hurston|
||(1891-1960) Hurston was born in the all-black township of Eatonville, Florida in 1891. The young lady who wore many hats lived life to the fullest, and this lifestyle was reflected in her writings. She was a novelist, folklorist, anthropologist, essayist, and playwright. Zora hung out with some of the Harlem Renaissance's best-known literary figures, yet was criticized by others for her outspokeness and dress. She also was criticized for ability to raise funds, although her critics usually benefitted from the patrons she raised from. Her most active period of writing was the 30's and 40's (after the majority of the Renaissance had occured). During her later years, she did not write as much as when she was younger. She passed away in 1960, but her hometown celebrates her life at an annual festival.|
|Some of her works include Jonah's Gourd Vine (1934), Mules and Men (1935), Their Eyes Were Watching God (1937), Tell My Horse (1938), Moses, Man of the Mountain (1936), Dust Tracks on a Road (1942), and Seraph on the Suwanee (1948).|
||(1890-1948) Claude moved to Harlem from Jamaica in 1914. His poem "If We Must Die" was one of the first major verses in the Harlem Renaissance. It set the tone for a majority of the literary works in the literary movement. McKay traveled the world speaking out against racism, and he used his works to convey his message. His works were known for their island culture and dialect. He also wrote several novels before his death.|
|Some of his works include "If We Must Die" (1919), A Long Way Home (1937), Home to Harlem (1929), Banjo (1929), Banana Bottom (1933), Songs of Jamaica (1912), Constab Ballads (1912), Spring in New Hampshire (1920) and Harlem Shadows (1922).|
||(1894-1967) Nathan Eugene Pinchback Toomer was born in 1894 in a world that judged on color. This perplexed Toomer, as it did with many Harlem Renaissance writers. The main difference between he and the others was the fact that he had a fair-complexion; this led most to treat him better because they thought he was white. Toomer noted this and wrote about it in his works. His book, Crane, was a collection of short stories about the lives of a poor Georgian black. Jean Toomer reached true fame during the resergence in black literature in the 60's and 70's when his book was rediscovered and hailed as one of the greats in African-American literature.|
|Some of his works include Cane (1923), Essentials (1931), The Blue Meridian (1936), An Interpretation of Friends Worship (1947), and The Flavor of Man (1949).|
- What book spoke of the "twoness'' between whites and minorities in the country? The Souls of Black Folks.
- Who wrote the book mentioned in question one? W.E.B. DuBois.
- Name two common themes in the Harlem Renaissance literature. Alienation and Marginality.
- What Harlem Renaissance writer was from Florida? Zora Neale Hurston.
- Who wrote the poem "If We Must Die"? Claude McKay.