Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Blackness in the Modernist Movement

Some people (and scholars) believe (and teach) that all the black writers of the Modernist era (roughly 1914-1945)are contained in the movement known as the Harlem Renaissance. However, there were many black writers and poets who were writing well ahead of Alain Locke's "New Negro," but were perhaps less celebrated. According to W.E.B. DuBois, not only did William Stanley Braithwaite publish more than thirty books (mostly anthologies), and was the editor of the Poetry Journal, Poetry Review and the Stratford Journals, he was "the most prominent critic of poetry in America". Fenton Johnson (not to be confused with the Fenton Johnson at University of Arizona)is one of the least-known African Amerian writers, possibly precisly because his work falls in between the writers of the Reconstruction and the New Negro Renaissance. His most notable poems are probably "Tired" and "The Scarlet Woman," both of which embrace the vernacular, and represents a radical rejection of conventional rhymed structure. Alice Moore Dunbar Nelson is sometimes associated with the Harlem Renaissance, but she was writing just as that movement began. Themes of race and gender were of great importance to her, though she did not feel she had the "ability to manage dialect".

And there are others as well whose work should be studied and celebrated: Charlotte Forten Grimke, James D. Corrothers, Sutton E. Griggs and Angelina Weld Grimke (no relation to Charlotte, I think), are just a few.

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