The Harlem Renaissance was an intellectual and artistic movement inspired by African American artists, writers and musicians. The movement demanded recognition of overwhelming talents in the arts, literature, and music. For the first time in history, African Americans earned status, respect, and credibility in a world powered by white. Black musicians brought the stylings of Jazz and blues, while writers and artists took to depicting “black problems” and ways of life. The practice, previously unknown to traditional Anglo literature, quickly became highly regarded in worlds that transcended skin color. It was both a means to reach out and connect as a color-coded brotherhood, and provided insight into the life of black America.
One of the great writers to emerge from this period was Claude McKay. In his poem Harlem Dancer (698), McKay’s meticulous use of description allows the reader to view the subject from different perspectives, and then to know her in a way that she could not be understood in a simple two-dimensional style. He carefully and deliberately included the use of subtle but flattering A-B-A-B rhyme schemes to promote flow, and to add an overall tone which evokes a palate of feelings with which to paint the picture. Although rich in depth, his words are not especially complex. As it is, neither were the people he was writing for, or about. With the majority of his intended audience being poverty stricken and under-educated, overreaching vocabulary would fall on deaf ears. Elaborate wording would likely feel unauthentic, almost prosthetic. McKay was no doubt a scholar and brilliant writer, adept in the art of seeing people, and translating them beautifully to the world.
Despite the forward raci...
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... it. It never appealed to me anyhow, as life will be exactly what it is, no matter how you feel about it. For the first time, I am seeing a duality in the world as the vinegar of youth, and the oil of maturity attempt to mix. They swirl almost meaningless amongst one another, never becoming a part of each other, yet never able to separate. This story speaks to me largely on the age crisis, and how it is emphasized and accentuated through young foolishness, yet not wasted entirely. Though the poem never makes reference to her age, still she emits a sense of knowing, of herself, of her strength, and even of her sweet deceptions. With youth rowdy in the front, and the quiet composure of the stranger in back, my world is played out with uncanny truth. I will never understand a day in the life of a 1920’s Harlem Dancer, but it seems we aren’t that different after all.
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