NTC: The “Race” of the Harlem Renaissance from Right to Left

Newberry Teachers' Consortium
Tuesday, October 30, 2012

9:30 am-12:30 pm

Tim Libretti, Northeastern Illinois University

The protagonist of James Weldon Johnson’s iconic work of the Harlem Renaissance “The Autobiography of an Ex-Colored Man” declares at one point, “Between people in like stations of life there is very little difference over the world.”  This statement exemplifies what David Levering Lewis identifies as the fundamental credo the Talented Tenth, “that the assimilated, cultured Afro-Saxon was every whit the equal of his ‘Nordic’ counterpart.”  For many of the major intellectuals and writers of the Harlem Renaissance, class was a much fairer index of cultural and social difference than race, as they championed solidarity of the elite classes across racial lines.  Of course, other major writers such as Langston Hughes, Sterling Brown, DuBois, and Nella Larsen identified African-American culture as a working-class culture, and both aesthetically and politically favored a working-class radical vision.  Indeed, the Harlem Renaissance can hardly be understood as a unified cultural movement; rather it is best characterized as a moment contested in both aesthetic and political terms, with various factions defining race and culture quite differently and imagining the road to racial (and class) liberation.

Cost and registration information: 

For registration information please contact Charlotte Wolfe at wolfec@newberry.org

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