The movement of African –American from the south to the north in the 1900’s marked the Harlem Renaissance period .,many people were moving to Harlem .The north offered the black people more suitable place where there was equality for all and they also the right to vote. After this movement, the blacks’ population in New York increased; they were able to live in modern houses which had been designed for the white citizens. Prominent black people and human rights activist found a suitable place to live in Harlem. Businesses were developed, and institutions for the black citizens were setup, with all these taking place, the black people were also ale to develop their talents. Poets and authors emerged from the black community; they used their talents to air the voice of the black people and to express the social change that had taken place. The poets and other authors published their articles in the Harlem Magazine which was a popular magazine among the black community (Bloom, 2004). There are, however, two most notable poets during that time, Langstone Hughes and Claude McKay.
“The Weary Blues “by Hughes and “Outcast” by McKay are some of the most popular poems during that time. This was a time where the black people celebrated the life of the black people and their culture. Harlem expressed his cultural pride though his poetry work. He was involved in writing novels, plays and essays which promoted equality for all Americans; through his work he was very vocal in condemning injustice and racism in America. He used the jazz and blues rhythm to express his words which most of the black people said expressed their voices. He did not the poetic approach that was used by the white poets; his approach ensured that the voice of the black was heard. Claude McKay, on the other hand, was also an advocate e of the black people through his poetry work. He was the first poet and author to address the Harlem Renaissance with the publication of Harlem Dance in 1918.He also published Home of Harlem; this publication won him the Harmon Gold Award, which was an award to recognize top authors in literature. His work had a lot of influence on other black authors such as Richard Wright.
One of the most notable aspects of the poems during the Harlem Renaissance is double consciousness displayed by the poets and other authors in their work. The poem “The Weary Blues” the speaker describes how he spends an evening listen to evening blues played by a musician in Harlem. The poem uses a mournful tempo which is common in blues music. The rhyme in the first stanzas is used by most hip-hop and rap musicians, the beat used in the rhyme is also used in most European poems. He the 12 bar pattern, a style that had not been used by the European poets. His poetry style was different from that used by previous poets; this can be a style used to avoid double consciousness. In the last stanza, the persona in the poem admits that he not happy anymore, and he wished he died. This is the climax of the poem; Hughes shows his loyalty to the African –American traditions. The words in this stanza are, however, found in some of the American love songs, as much as the statement shows his African loyalty, the words have been Americanized. Hughes is able to preserve his black identity and does not conform to the ways of the white poets. The other argument why Hughes uses the unique style is because he wants to be neutral and stand out as a poet and not an advocate of the black people (Hughes & Rampersa, p, 35).
In the poem Outcast by Claude McKay, the persona admits that there is a part of him that is lost. He remembers his motherland Africa, but he is more attracted to the white people and their life. His spirit would love to return to Africa, but his body is held by the colonial history that affects Africa. The colonization by the white people in Africa has made him lose his identity in the African land. Unlike Hughes who connects the black and white cultures, McKay shows that the two cultures might never work at the same time; one has to forget about one culture which is the African culture.
During the Harlem Renaissance period, there were key themes and topics that were covered with various poets and authors in their literature work. In the Weary Blues, the issue of the African suffering, when the doctor asks the musician whether he is suffering, he says yes, this shows that he was at pain and dissatisfied. Hughes had a passion in art, by using the musician in the poem; the theme of art in expressing one's feelings is reflected. The musician says that he is all alone, and there is nobody to turn to as a black man; this indicates that race was an issue that Hughes was addressing. In the poem Outcast, the major theme is colonialism and loss of personal identity. In the first stanza, the person says that there is something lost in him, and it is lost forever; this is his identity. He cannot trace his African identity; he has to walk among the sons of the earth who are apart, and this shows the division between the white and black people.
Walking is a slow pace,
My steps I try to retrace,
Where my pasts always face,
In a land of new culture,
I try to retrace, the roots to my mother land,
But I’m held, held by a strong hand,
Can I get to my land?
Bloom, H. (2004). The Harlem Renaissance. Philadelphia: Chelsea House Publishers.
Hughes, L., Rampersad, A., Roessel, D. E., & Andrews, B. (20061994). Langston Hughes. New York: Sterling Pub..
McKay, C., & Maxwell, W. J. (2004). Complete poems. Urbana: University of Illinois Press.