The African American Roots of Modernism: From Reconstruction to the Harlem Renaissance
The period between 1880 and 1918, at the end of which Jim Crow was firmly established and the Great Migration of African Americans was well under way, was not the nadir for black culture, James Smethurst reveals, but instead a time of profound response from African American intellectuals. The African American Roots of Modernism explores how the Jim Crow system triggered significant artistic and intellectual responses from African American writers, deeply marking the beginnings of literary modernism and, ultimately, notions of American modernity.
In identifying the Jim Crow period with the coming of modernity, Smethurst upsets the customary assessment of the Harlem Renaissance as the first nationally significant black arts movement, showing how artists reacted to Jim Crow with migration narratives, poetry about the black experience, black performance of popular culture forms, and more. Smethurst introduces a whole cast of characters, including understudied figures such as William Stanley Braithwaite and Fenton Johnson, and more familiar authors such as Charles Chesnutt, Pauline Hopkins, and James Weldon Johnson. By considering the legacy of writers and artists active between the end of Reconstruction and the rise of the Harlem Renaissance, Smethurst illuminates their influence on the black and white U.S. modernists who followed.
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Afri African Ameri African American literature African American writers antebellum audience autobiography Banjo black and white black authors black bohemia black Civil black soldier black writers bohemia Bois Bois’s Boston Chesnutt Chicago citizenship color coon song Douglass dualism early twentieth century Ex-Colored fact Fenton Johnson figure freedom genre ghetto Harlem Renaissance Harper’s heterosexual industrial interracial Iola Leroy James Weldon Johnson Jim Crow lesbian literary mask Massachusetts Fifty-fourth Melanctha migration narrative minstrelsy mixed-race modern modernist narrator Negro Renaissance nineteenth North noted notion novel one’s Paul Laurence Dunbar perhaps plantation poems poet political popular culture postbellum protagonist queer race racial racist radical ragtime reader Reconstruction relationship Robert Gould Shaw seen segregation sense sexual slave narrative slavery social sort Souls of Black South southern space Stein story tion Toomer trope United urban vaudeville veteran W. E. B. Du Bois Washington white writers William Stanley Braithwaite women York