The Relationship Between Langston Hughes And The Harlem Renaissance

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The relationship between Langston Hughes and the Harlem Renaissance


By researching Hughes' life and historical events that inspired his poetry, I hope to explain how these two poems are representative of his personal poetic style as well as the poetic style of the Harlem Renaissance.


Hughes was a popular and influential voice for the African-American community, so it is important to understand how his poems appealed to the African-American community in terms of their subject matter and language.

The Harlem Renaissance

Langston Hughes is an significant figure in Afro-American literature. He is read extensively and called nowadays as the Black Poet Laureate. He assisted guide in the Harlem Renaissance and made the Afro-American voice a meaningful and respected adding to the American culture.

The Harlem Renaissance (1917-1934), originally called the “Negro Renaissance,” was a golden age of African American arts. Its mission was to bring about racial renewal through cultural diplomacy. The Renaissance was not just “art for art's sake.” That “Negro art” could redraw the public image of “colored” people in the United States was its animating purpose, with the goal of achieving what David Levering Lewis called “civil rights by copyright (Berry, 12).” Enjoying a “double audience” of Black and White, the Harlem Renaissance was a spectacular success during its heyday. As a public exhibition of African American poetry, prose, drama, art, and music, this valiant effort to remove the masks of racial stereotypes so as to put a new social face on African Americans improved race relations somewhat—a nearly impossible task given the entrenched racial prejudices of the day under the legalized segregation of Jim Crow laws.

Not only did the Harlem Renaissance attract a White patronage and market, the movement instilled a racial pride and nobility among African Americans whose lives it touched. Its cultural diplomacy became a cultural legacy.

Poetic trends shifted again during the Harlem Renaissance of the 1920s. By then, it had become clear that integration would not become a reality anytime soon. Poets such as Langston Hughes, Countee Cullen, Sterling Brown, Jean Toomer, and Claude McKay thus produced poems that celebrated a new black culture in its own right.

Hughes developed their own, more modern dialect poetry, which fused folk and oral traditions with modern black life. Hughes also experimented with blues and jazz rhythms in poems such as “The Weary Blues” (1925). The prime movers of the Harlem Renaissance believed that art held more promise than politics in bringing about a sea of change in U.S. race relations. A more realistic goal was the cultivation of wholesome race pride. The advent of a self-conscious “Negro poetry” by “Negro poets” helped to foster the group consciousness that Locke found to be singularly lacking among African Americans historically yet developing rather suddenly in his generation.

Locke helped Hughes to launch the career of Langston Hughes (1902-1967)—widely regarded as the poet laureate of the Harlem Renaissance—whose poems “Let America Be America Again” and “Theme for English B” are frequently anthologized in American literature textbooks. Disinclined to identify himself as a ...
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