Facultad de Humanidades
dept. Lingüística y Literatura
Lic. En Educación en Inglés
North American Literature
Prof. María Cristina Gelves
Alumna: Beatriz Romero
A Summer Tragedy Analysis
The Development of African-American Literature to Harlem Renaissance
In New York in 1905, after a successful real estate market had declined, landlords and developers attempted toentice African-American realtors and tenants. After and during World War I, thousands of blacks migrated from the South and other areas to look for jobs and, by 1923, the number of blacks in New York was estimated to be 183,428, nearly three times that reported in 1910. Two thirds of these people settled in Harlem which, at that time, was distinctively black. In 1917, an intellectual movement, knownas the Harlem Renaissance, began in Harlem and lasted until 1935. David Levering Lewis, in his introduction to The Portable Harlem Renaissance Reader, writes that:
“The Harlem Renaissance was a somewhat forced phenomenon, a cultural nationalism of the parlor, institutionally encouraged and directed by leaders of the national civil rights establishment for the paramount purpose of improving racerelations in a time of extreme national backlash, caused in a large part by economic gains won by Afro-Americans during the Great War.”
W.E.B. Du Bois described the leaders of the movement as the Talented Tenth, a few privileged professionals who were nearly all second generation college graduates. These intellectuals "perceived that, although the roads to the ballot box, the union hall . . .and the office were blocked" off, there were two paths that were not barred: arts and letters. The Talented Tenth created a new ideology of racial assertiveness that was to be embraced by influential African-Americans, which included educated doctors, lawyers and businessmen. These people would comprise ten percent of the total African-American population in 1920. However, statistics show that therewere by no means as many educated African-American leaders in 1920 .
In the fall of 1917, the rediscovered African-American was publicly announced with Emily Hapgood's production of three one-act plays: The Rider of Dreams, Simon the Cyrenian, and Granny Maumee, all written by her husband, Ridgely Torrence. This production, presented at the Old Garden Street Theater near Broadway, was asignificant event because the cast was all-black and the parts were dignified. The plays and the actors were both given high reviews, which helped propel African-Americans into the spotlight. Thus, African-Americans were beginning to assert themselves and to be recognized in the literary and artistic realms, which white Americans dominated at the time. Two years later, the Hapgood production was precededby the presentation of O'Neill's Emperor Jones and several other plays which featured black actors. The Harlem Renaissance, which would develop a new African-American consciousness, had officially begun and would continue until 1935.
According to David Levering Lewis, the literary movement was broken up into three phases: the Bohemian Renaissance, the era of the Talented Tenth, and the NegroRenaissance. Each phase had distinctly different influences and produced different writings. Phase one, the Bohemian Renaissance, spanning from 1917-1923, was dominated by white authors writing about black people. These authors, the Bohemians and Revolutionaries, were fascinated with the life of black people. Eugene O'Neill's Emperor Jones was an example of a play, written by a white author, whichfeatured a black man as a main character who was, in turn, played by a black actor, Charles Gilpin. Ironically, the play was not accepted by the Harlem community. Although O'Neill's Harlem audience probably knew little, intellectually, of psychic journeys and racial unconscious, they knew that the jungle had no connection with their lives, and they recognized the stereotypes O'Neill was using....
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