14 December 2007

A chance to move forward for Blacks

During the aftermath of the civil war a black man or woman was legally free from slavery in the United States of America. Slavery in the traditional sense was the physical ownership of another human being. Even though blacks were legally “free people” in the eyes of the government they still weren’t social or cultural free. Blacks were still under the control of whites and were always taught to behave in a proper way in which whites approved of, also they were taught to reject their blackness.

But during the 1920’s after many blacks returned from World War I then started to question why they were fighting for freedom in another country but not in their own. So after the war many individuals started to explore their blackness and share it with the world; by listening to new music, such as jazz, writing poems and novels about their people’s experiences, developing new images of blackness. Though song, dance, literature, and art black people were redefining themselves for the first time and starting a culture for themselves without limitations, this movement was known as the Harlem Renaissance or the new Negro.

In the black community during the movement of the new Negro there was no one vision of true blackness. Many of the leaders at this time were constantly struggle with the definition of who and what the new Negro was. In addition to the internal arguments between black leaders there was of course the hostility from the white community as well because of the new changes ideas around them. On one side there were people like Langston Hughes and Alain Locke who believed in the new Negro and his ability to break away from the old stereotype or old Negro. It was time for the new Negro to admire him or herself and take pride in their blackness. Langston Hughes states that just as the new Negro can’t let the white community set limits or regulations for him, the black community shouldn’t do so also.

In one of Langston Hughes’ essay he advises Negro writers and artist not to paint or write for propaganda or to please whites or blacks for that matter. It shouldn’t matter, that isn’t the reason why writers write or painter paint, one should write or paint to please him. And if whites or blacks like his work then wonderful but first and foremost it should be about what the artist wants or feels the need to say. (Langston Hughes: The Negro artist and the racial Mountain)

In an essay by Amy Jacques Garvey, she agrees with Hughes’ argument that more blacks need to stop the old belief of “…peel their skins off, and straighten their hair, in a mad effort to look like their ideal type.” These images were not how the Negro’s should live, they see the glory in the blackness because black is beautiful and use that to empower themselves. (Amy J. Garvey, On the Langston Hughes: I Am a Negro-and beautiful)

On the other side of the argument some feel that the new Negro should stay “within the lines” in a way. George S. Schuyler believes that the new Negro needs to cutoff the branch that links them to Africa. His reasoning for this is because the new Negro resides in America and should try not keep acknowledging all the reasons he/she is different from the whites. Leaders like Schuyler want these views spend because in their minds constantly telling the whites why blacks are so different from whites will only make or help the whites stop the new Negro movement. This is because by saying time and time again

“We are black, we are different” it only strengths the argument that blacks are not equal to whites and should be treated differently. (George S. Schuyler: The Negro-Art Hokum)

As the reader can see there are many ways in which to state what or who the new Negro is. When I personal speak about the new Negro I have more of a middle ground point of view on how he should be defined. When discussing the race or ethnicity of one group you should always keep in mind how that race wants to define themselves or what do feel they are. It is my position that the New Negro should understand himself by looking into his past, so he can move forward in the new world. This means by exploring his African ancient history and applying it to his American lifestyle he can find more balance in his life.

Also I agree with Langston Hughes when he says that an artist shouldn’t make all his work about propaganda, his work is his work and should be what he wants it to be. An artist shouldn’t limit himself to one type of suggestion or one point of view, he should be free to express himself in all ways and send his message to the world.

So in short the new Negro is an individual who takes his life experiences and the knowledge of his past to try and move forward with his life. He wants the same rights as any other person in America would want but he also wants the right to develop his own culture. He seems to be always growing, changing with the new times yet you can see his roots are still firmly planted in the past.

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