Tag Archives: Harlem Renaissance

“There are a great many colored people who are ashamed of the cake-walk, but I think they ought to be proud of it.” — James Weldon Johnson

“Nothing will do more to change that mental attitude and raise his status than a demonstration of intellectual parity by the Negro through the production of literature and art.” – James Weldon Johnson, preface to The Book of American Negro … Continue reading

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“If I am going to be a poet at all, I am going to be POET and not NEGRO POET.” — poet Countee Cullen

Yet do I marvel at this curious thing: To make a poet black, and bid him sing! — Countee Cullen It’s his birthday today. Cullen is often compared to Langston Hughes (my post on Hughes here), seems a little unfair, … Continue reading

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“Sometimes I think no matter how one is born, no matter how one acts, there is something out of gear with one somewhere, and that must be changed. Life at its best is a grand corrective.” –Jessie Redmon Fauset

“Better the wound forever seeking balm Than this gray calm!” –Jessie Redmon Fauset, from “Dead Fires” Jessie Redmon Fauset, whose birthday it is today, was a “forgotten writer” for many years, after her heyday in the 20s and 30s. Her … Continue reading

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Happy Birthday, poet/playwright Angelina Weld Grimké

Angelina Weld Grimké’s was born into a powerful familial legacy, which she absorbed, and then continued on her own. It was the air she breathed. Her paternal grandparents were a white slave owner and a mixed-race slave, who lived together … Continue reading

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“Guilt pins a fig-leaf; Innocence is its own adorning.” — poet Anne Spencer

Anne Bethel Scales Bannister Spencer was yet another poet-librarian, like Dudley Randall, and many others. It was part of a tradition, one worthy of more study (there are websites devoted to it!). As the daughter of a librarian, I am … Continue reading

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“and I / spoke with tongues that sent their devotees / out of this world!” — poet Melvin B. Tolson

“I, as a black poet, have absorbed the Great Ideas of the Great White World, and interpreted them in the melting-pot idiom of my people. My roots are in Africa, Europe, and America.” – Melvin B. Tolson, 1965 interview It’s … Continue reading

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“The mood of the Blues is almost always despondency, but when they are sung people laugh.” — Langston Hughes

The Blues always impressed me as being very sad, sadder even than the Spirituals, because their sadness is not softened with tears, but hardened with laughter … of a sadness where there is no god to appeal to. — Langston … Continue reading

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Cane was a swan-song. It was a song of an end.” — poet/novelist Jean Toomer

Jean Toomer was born in 1894 on this day and died in 1967. Toomer’s family tree encompasses all of pre-and-post-Civil War South: slaves, freemen, black, white. His father, Nathan Toomer, was born into slavery. After the war he continued working … Continue reading

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“If a man is not faithful to his own individuality, he cannot be loyal to anything.” — poet Claude McKay

“I am a black man, born in Jamaica, B.W.I., and have been living in America for the last years. It was the first time I had ever come face to face with such manifest, implacable hate of my race, and … Continue reading

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“Those who know what it means to be a colored woman in 1922 – know it not so much in fact as in feeling …” — poet Georgia Douglas Johnson

Georgia Douglas Johnson, one of the leading voices of the Harlem Renaissance, was born on this day. She grew up in Georgia, attended college, and then became a teacher and vice principal. Her time of activity was somewhat concentrated: her … Continue reading

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