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Langston Hughes On The Harlem Renaissance English Literature Essay

The Harlem Renaissance began in 1925 and ended in1935.The Harlem Renaissance was once referred to as the “Negro Renaissance”. It began in this time period because of the financial and educational problems throughout this period. The movement was centered in the ghetto of Harlem, in New York City. During this postwar ease many of the black writers tried to involve the younger generations. A fresh generation of writers emerged, although a few were born in Harlem and the movement was accelerated by grants and scholarships and supported by white writers. Langston Hughes was often labeled the “Poet Laureate of Harlem,” particularly because his poetry retained the rhythm, idiosyncrasy, and dialect of his culture a fact that often saw him slandered by those who viewed his honest expression as underscoring all the elements of black existence they feared and hated.

Langston Hughes had an impact on black literature that cannot be overstated, from his simple, direct but brutally honest poetry and influence in forming the Harlem Renaissance to his career as a journalist of human rights. Hughes was very talented and versatile, and he was able to write in any genre with equal ease and skill. Hughes was an inspiration to other young black men, particularly the young writers because of his unique character. He also served as both an inspiration and a mentor for these younger writers. With his sweet poetic voice, nurturing generosity, abundant humor, and abiding love of his people, Langston Hughes was one of the most dominant voices in American literature for this time period, and perhaps the single most influential black poet ever. “Hughes continued writing through the 1930's and the 1940's, speaking for the poor and the homeless black people who suffered during the Great Depression. He wrote of their daily lives in American cities, of their anger and their loves. Black people loved reading his works and hearing him read his poems at public presentations all over the country. To them he was" Harlem's Poem." When Hughes died in 1967, a jazz band played at his funeral.”

The Harlem Renaissance was a very influential time period of literary and creativity because of the many talented artists that contributed their hard work that went on to earn many different awards. Among these hardworking artists is a man named Countee Cullen who without knowing it had a major impact on this time period although his ideas usually differed with others. Countee Cullen and many of the other artists during the Harlem Renaissance differed because he thought of art as race-less and customary. While most others believed that race was not portrayed through their form of artistic expression, Cullen’s differences caused people to respect the fact that he chose not to express race through his poetry. Despite what Cullen admitted to Langston Hughes about wanting to be recognized as "a poet, not a Negro poet," he spent most of his life proving that a black poet could surely sing--and sing in a black voice. In fact, five of the seven volumes of poetry that bear Cullen's name have, in their very titles, a basis for racial themes that is borne out in the poetry itself. Yet, Cullen's poetry reveals a man who was torn between allegiances to his blackness and his vocation as a race-less poet.

Langston Hughes was one of the most important writers and thinkers of the Harlem Renaissance, which was the African American artistic movement in the 1920’s that celebrated black life and culture. Hughes's creative genius was influenced by his life in Harlem, New York. His literary works helped shape American literature and politics. Hughes, like others active in the Harlem Renaissance, had a strong sense of racial pride. Through his poetry, novels, plays, essays, and children's books, he promoted equality, condemned racism and injustice, and celebrated African American culture, humor, and spirituality. In many ways Hughes always remained loyal to the principles he had laid down for the younger black writers in 1926. His art was firmly rooted in race pride and race feeling even as he cherished his freedom as an artist. He was both nationalist and international. As a radical democrat, he believed that art should be accessible to as many people as possible. “Unlike other notable black poets of the period—Claude McKay, Jean Toomer, and Countee Cullen—Hughes refused to differentiate between his personal experience and the common experience of black America. He wanted to tell the stories of his people in ways that reflected their actual culture, including both their suffering and their love of music, laughter, and language itself.” He was perhaps the most original of African American poets and, in the breadth and variety of his work, assuredly the most representative of African American writers.

The Harlem Renaissance was an explosion of African-American arts, with middle and upper-class blacks as the dominant leaders. Poetry has never celebrated pride in African-American culture more than that period in the 20‘s. The reasons behind the outburst of artists, ways in which the written word was expressed, and the artist’s lasting effect on today show how much the Harlem Renaissance was one of the most brilliant artistic movements in history. “His works conveyed life as he saw it. His collection of works called Color, printed in 1925, put the Harlem Renaissance to a new height because of its ability to show social realities. Cullen was awarded the Witter Bynner Undergraduate Poetry Prize from New York University. Cullen was criticized for being conventional, for using the British romantic poets as his models, and for insisting that poetry in general should be free of racial and political matters.”

“The Harlem that Hughes loved and where he lived most of his life was an exciting place. This newly developed suburb of New York City was planned, laid out, and built almost too fast; the bottom dropped out of the real estate market in 1904-1905. Harlem had broad boulevards, beautiful town houses, and exclusive apartment buildings-but no residents. Desperate to rent to anyone, many developers began to open Harlem to blacks, and by 1914 Harlem was a black city. Its population almost exploded during the years of the First World War as blacks from the South moved north in search of better jobs and fuller citizenship--the beginning of what came to be known as the Great Migration.” Langston Hughes was often labeled the “Poet Laureate of Harlem,” particularly because his poetry retained the rhythm, idiosyncrasy, and dialect of his culture a fact that often saw him slandered by those who viewed his honest expression as underscoring all the elements of black existence they feared and hated.  Cultural developments do reflect American society as much as government policies or maybe more. Much of the literature, art, and music emerging during the first half of the twentieth century came from African Americans, but people of all races and cultures were involved. Films also reflected society a lot during this time.

  The Harlem Renaissance was a movement that gave black people a cultural uniqueness though literature and art. Most of the literature focused on realistically portraying black life, life in the ghetto, and other black issues. Langston Hughes was one of the major black writers to emerge from this movement. Hughes was a great writer with much diversity in his types of writings. He wrote plays, novels, poems, essays, short stories, and much more. Most of his writings were of the realities of black life, racism, ghetto and slum life, no jobs for black man and much more.


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