Journey Towards Racial Reconciliation

Best Essays
The Harlem Renaissance poets had to overcome many obstacles to establish themselves in the world of American poetry. They faced overt racism, harsh criticism, and racial isolation. Out of these impediments came a multitude of great literary contributions. However, some of the best poems came from the critical self-analysis of four highly influential Harlem Renaissance poets. Hughes, McKay, Cullen, and Bennett each wrestled with the issue of uncertain racial identity. Each pair had poems with identical titles: “Mulatto” for Hughes and McKay and “Heritage” for Cullen and Bennett. The analysis of each pair of poems and how the respective authors handle the subject material will reveal a distinctive pattern of racial confusion. For many of the Harlem Renaissance poets, establishing a definitive place of belonging was virtually impossible. Their poems portray individuals are conflicted as to where they belong and how they identify themselves. While the differences between the poems are telling in their own right, the similar theme of racial identity is what links all four poets together in the larger context of being “negro poets”.
“Mulatto” is the strongest case for racial confusion of the two titles that will be analyzed. A mulatto is someone who is classified as a person of mixed white and black ancestry, especially a person with one white and one black parent. It is this exact type of person that Hughes and McKay are writing about in their identically titled works. During the 1920’s, when both of these men were writing poetry, people of mixed races were looked down upon by both blacks and whites. They were oddities and not accepted by either ancestral group. This fostered feelings of isolation in these individuals. Conflicted, the...

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