The Harlem Renaissance

The Harlem Renaissance was a period when African-American writers and artists were able to express themselves via writing, painting, and music (Singh, 2010). Claude McKay was one of the Harlem Renaissance's first American-African poets. McKay was born and raised in Jamaica before moving to the United States. McKay played a role in influencing many poets, notably Langston Hughes, during the Harlem Renaissance, and paved the path for black poets to discuss the racial that they experienced through their poems during the Harlem Renaissance. Langston Hughes was also one of the most important Harlem Renaissance poets. And he had a strong feeling towards racial pride, his poetry and literacy work played a significant role in shaping the American literature and politics, promoted equality and condemned racism as well as injustice among the American people (Singh, 2010).

Double consciousness.

In his poem ‘America,' Claude McKay seems to be sticking to the traditional white concept of poetry, and he adapts the Shakespearian sonnet concept when it is clear that the poem itself it tied firmly to the black identities issues. McKay suggests that he is linked to America in the line, ‘her vigor flows like tides into my blood’ (Zumoff, 2011) but does not shy away from acknowledging America as the enemy. McKay broadly confronts the double consciousness issue by identifying himself primarily with blacks and viewing the Americans as too predominantly white to ever extend a welcoming hand to him.

Langston Hughes tries to remain loyal to African-American roots in his poem ‘the weary blues’ as he tries to frame himself as the new voice of America. Langston also succeeds in promoting the black culture, as he has to compromise with an issue that seems inevitable, whether to frame into the white reality of both the form and content (Beyad & Roshnavand, 2012). Langston simply wishes for people to be equal, he wishes for a man to be both white and black, without having to pass through the humiliation of being cursed and spit upon by his fellows, without naturally losing or missing the opportunity of self-development.

Themes in the Poetry during the Harlem Renaissance period.

The Harlem Renaissance time started in the early 20th century and developed into the civil rights movement of the late years the 1940s and early 1950s. During this period, several poems were written and published, and several themes depicted.


Several poets have represented race as a theme. In his poem ‘I Too Sing America,' Langston describes race when he says that the black community is treated with much cruelty and inequality in the lines 2 and 3 ‘I am the darker brother, they send me to eat in the kitchen when company comes' (Henzy, 2011). Countee Cullen, in his poem ‘the dark tower,' describes the inferiority of the black community in America. He says he believes that there is enough space in the whole world to accommodate both blacks and whites. ‘A song of praise’ is also another poem that depicts race as it addresses the beauty of black women, giving a hint that black women are even more beautiful and appealing to the eye than white women. Cullen argues in his poem ‘Tableau’ that race affects both children and adults, despite the fact that children are innocent and fragile in the first two lines, ‘Locked arm in arm they cross the way, the black boy and the white. ‘Johnson Depicts race when she compares the day with the night, pitting the African Americans with the Caucasians. In her poem ‘What do I care for Morning’ in the final lines ‘What do I care dor morning, For the glare of the rising sun’ (Jones, 2011).


Phillis Wheatley uses the theme of slavery in his poem ‘on being brought from Africa to America’ when she praises the white people for freeing her from slavery in the lines 1 and 2 ‘Twas mercy brought me from my Pagan land' (Garvey, 2012). She, however, is not impressed by the superficial kindness that covered over the fact of her enslavement. She is not content with slavery as she wonders when the time will come that she and other Africans will be free from it. Also as soon as she was released from the premises where she was kept as a slave, she did not hesitate to depart from it. This shows how much Wheatley hated slavery and her detention place as well. Land and slavery were some of the important themes used by Zora Neale Hurston, and she says in the lines ‘Sweat, sweat, sweat! Work and sweat, cry and sweat, pray and sweat!’ (Garvey, 2012). She insinuates that the African American have developed a stable connection to the land that they reside on because the ground depicts their life as slaves and sharecroppers. She says that the labor that the African American used on their land back in the Black Country is the same one they use to work in the whites country. They sweat in the area and sometimes becomes so unbearable that they only need to pray to continuing to work and or living on the land.

My poem

I toil

The sun is hot

My sweat, dripping

To my last strength

I toil, to feed the fortunate.

The whip rises

Tears my bare back

Two mean words hit my ears

Maybe three

To remind me

I am not fortunate

I can’t say complex words

Where did you learn that? They ask

You shouldn’t learn that

Because; you are not fortunate

My children

They are unfortunate

In a train, they can’t sit

While the fortunate stand

The school of the fortunate, they mustn’t attend

Their hood is that of the condemned

The jail is theirs

Because, the fortunate’ world, is not the world of the unfortunate.

But somehow, My children must survive.


Beyad, M. S., & Roshnavand, F. N. (2012). Africanism in Langston Hughes’ The Weary Blues. The Iranian EFL Journal, 43(2), 361.

Garvey, E. G. (2012). Writing with scissors: American scrapbooks from the Civil War to the Harlem Renaissance. Oxford University Press.

Henzy, K. (2011). Langston Hughes's Poetry and the Metaphysics of Simplicity. Callaloo, 34(3), 915-927.

Jones, M. D. (2011). The muse is music: Jazz poetry from the Harlem Renaissance to spoken word (Vol. 89). University of Illinois Press.

Singh, A. (2010). Novels of the Harlem Renaissance: Twelve Black Writers, 1923-1933. Penn State Press.

Zumoff, J. A. (2010). Mulattoes, Reds, and the Fight for Black Liberation in Claude McKay's" Trial By Lynching" and" Negroes in America". Journal of West Indian Literature, 19(1), 22-53.

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