By James Smethurst
The interval among 1880 and 1918, on the finish of which Jim Crow used to be firmly validated and the nice Migration of African american citizens was once good less than manner, used to be no longer the nadir for black tradition, James Smethurst unearths, yet as an alternative a time of profound reaction from African American intellectuals. The African American Roots of Modernism explores how the Jim Crow method prompted major inventive and highbrow responses from African American writers, deeply marking the beginnings of literary modernism and, eventually, notions of yankee modernity.
In choosing the Jim Crow interval with the arriving of modernity, Smethurst upsets the widely used review of the Harlem Renaissance because the first nationally major black arts circulate, exhibiting how artists reacted to Jim Crow with migration narratives, poetry concerning the black adventure, black functionality of pop culture kinds, and extra. Smethurst introduces an entire solid of characters, together with understudied figures corresponding to William Stanley Braithwaite and Fenton Johnson, and extra commonplace authors resembling Charles Chesnutt, Pauline Hopkins, and James Weldon Johnson. via contemplating the legacy of writers and artists energetic among the tip of Reconstruction and the increase of the Harlem Renaissance, Smethurst illuminates their impact at the black and white U.S. modernists who followed.
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Extra info for African American Roots of Modernism
On one hand, there was an assumption by nascent black nationalists and radical black democrats (and some white critics) that the path toward full cultural and political citizenship for black Americans involved African American poetry becoming truly “modern,” an assumption that in part rested on the notion that black poetry, and literature generally, was “backward” or a weak imitation of “traditional” Euro-American verse. At the same time, not only did the “new poetry” find formal and thematic inspiration in popular culture versions of the African American subject, the black voice, and African American expressive culture, but the participation of black artists and intellectuals in new bohemian circles, and the representation of those at least nominally integrated circles, became a hallmark of a countercultural break with the mainstream, especially in the bohemias of Greenwich Village in New York, of Towertown on the near North Side in Chicago, and of Beacon Hill in Boston.
The frequently invoked trope of the “city within a city” and the related notion of the “black metropolis,” as the destination of the African American provincial in many migration narratives, at least implicitly, if sometimes ironically, draw on a utopian vision of black self-determination. Such territorialization had much to do with the vast migration of African Americans from the countryside to the city and from the South to the North, beginning in the second decade of the twentieth century, greatly swelling the new urban ghettos.
And, by the early twentieth century, the problem of, in Du Bois’s words, “the color line,” of where and of what one might be a citizen or a potential citizen took on a new urgency and international (and internationalist) dimension for African Americans, perhaps most clearly seen in the establishment of the ur-modern black nationalist organization, the Universal Negro Improvement Association, by Marcus Garvey (a great admirer of Booker T. Washington), especially with his move to the United States in 1916, and his founding of a New York branch in 1917.
African American Roots of Modernism by James Smethurst