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It was not the literature of this period that realized a profound contribution to art; rather, it was the black creators of the classic blues and jazz whose creative works, subsidized by the black working class, defined a new era in the history of Western music. In the classroom you can begin your discussion of the New Negro and the remaking of the black image by considering Booker T. Students probably know him chiefly as an educator through his work with the Tuskegee Institute and as an advocate for black economic advancement and racial accommodation by virtue of his Atlanta Exposition Address.Presenting him as the editor of A New Negro for a New Century introduces him in a different role, that of image maker. Both to contain and to develop this black voice, a virtual literary renaissance was called for. [African Methodist Episcopal] Church Review in 1904. Cooper (author of A Voice from the South, 1892) as demanding that “we must begin to give the character of beauty and power to the literary utterance of the race.” This urge, Moore continues, finally assumed a form in the writings of Dunbar, Chesnutt, Du Bois, and others, which taken together constitute a literary movement, a movement of New Negro voices that could recreate the received stereotypic figure of the black as Sambo.
Despite its stated premises, the New Negro movement was indeed quite polemical and propagandistic, both within the black community and outside of it.
Claiming to be above and beyond protest and politics, it sought nothing less than to reconstruct the very idea of who and what a Negro was or could be. Schramm Vice President for Education Programs National Humanities Center Tracing the evolution of the trope of the New Negro from 1895 to 1925 gives teachers the opportunity to do at least two important things: first, to introduce students to the long tradition of African American efforts to recast the black image, and second, to explore the modulated political tenor of the Harlem Renaissance.
I ended my statement to the colored soldiers by saying: "Now, I shall be very sorry to hurt you, and you don't know whether or not I will keep my word, but my men can tell you that I always do;" whereupon my cow-punchers, hunters, and miners solemnly nodded their heads and commented in chorus, exactly as if in a comic opera, "He always does; he always does!
My own men had all sat up and were watching my movements with utmost interest; so was Captain Howze.
This idea has such a long and intricate history in black letters that one could write a book about it. [The New Negro], this black and racial self, as we define it here, does not exist as an entity or group of entities but ”only” as a coded system of signs, complete with masks and mythology.
The final democracy could be realized only with the registering of the cadences of the black literary voice. A New Negro would signify his presence in the arts, and it was this impulse that lead, of course, to the New Negro Renaissance of the twenties. Almost as soon as blacks could write, it seems, they set out to redefine—against already received racist stereotypes—who and what a black person was, and how unlike the racist stereotype the black original indeed actually could be. For me, black intellectual reconstruction commenced in the antebellum slave narratives, published mainly between 18, and ended (if indeed it has ended) with the New Negro Renaissance of the 1920s. Freelon, which serves as the frontispiece to the 1928 number of the Carolina Magazine, heavily influenced by Alain Locke, that was devoted to the ”New Negro” and his writings. In 1925, Alain Locke edited a special number of Survey Graphic entitled “Harlem: Mecca of the New Negro,” which served both to codify and to launch a second New Negro literary movement. Indeed, this tension between definitions is readily gleaned in the drastic difference between the “Old Crowd Negro-New Crowd Negro” cartoon, printed in the Messenger of 1919, and that drawing of “The New Negro,” done by Allan R. [post World War I] figure of the New Negro was both too potent and too problematical to predominate within the black intelligentsia. It is a bold and audacious act of language, signifying the will to power, to dare to recreate a race by renaming it, despite the dubiousness of the venture. head and shoulders above the ex-slave black person, freed now for only thirty-five years. The colored cavalry—men had already so accepted me; in return, the Rough Riders, although for the most part Southwesterners, who have a strong color prejudice, grew to accept them with hearty good-will as comrades, and were entirely willing, in their own phrase, "to drink out of the same canteen." Where all the regular officers did so well, it is hard to draw any distinction; but in the cavalry division a peculiar meed of praise should be given to the officers of the Ninth and Tenth for their work, and under their leadership the colored troops did as well as any soldiers could possibly do. " This was the end of the trouble, for the "smoked Yankees"—as the Spaniards called the colored soldiers-flashed their white teeth at one another, as they broke into broad grins, and I had no more trouble with them, they seeming to accept me as one of their own officers. a concern with time, antecedents, and heritage, on the one hand, with a concern for a cleared space, the public face of the race, on the other. In this new Negro voice, Moore concludes, a voice epitomized by Du Bois’s Souls of Black Folk, “We are going a long way in the direction of reaching a true understanding of the highest precept and purpose of the final democracy.” What a curious phrase, ”the final democracy”! Thomas Fortune argued that “the capacity of a race is largely measured by the achievements of its writers, in whom its natural vigor and perspicuity of intellect, its highest moral revelations and its most delicate and beautiful emotions should reach consummation.” These statements are only two of many more. To most of us it is as oddly familiar as though it breathed and spoke in the jungle of its forebearers. Fortune, Jr., who in 1883 published an essay on ”The Importance of Literature: Its Influence on the Progress of Nations,” and found these ideas echoed in essays such as a 1905 New York Age editorial entitled “Dearth of Afro-American Writers,” in which T. The tone of these essays is fairly represented by Holliday’s claim that black soldiers in the Civil War “turned the tide of war against slavery and the Rebellion, in favor of freedom and the Union.” To have fought nobly, clearly, was held to be a legitimate argument for full citizenship rights. The anthology’s apparent militaristic emphasis seems intent upon refuting claims made by Theodore Roosevelt in Scribner’s Magazine in 1899 of the inherent racial weaknesses that would prevent black officers from commanding effectively, thus making mandatory, in subsequent wars, their command by white officers. Presley Holliday’s rebuttal, printed initially in the New York Age in 1899, appears in A New Negro, along with the histories of black valor in every American war.Claiming that the isolated, cultured, upper-class part stood for the potential of the larger black whole, it sought to imitate forms of Western poetry, “translating,” as it was put, the art of the untutored folk into a “higher,” standard English mode of expression, more compatible with the Western tradition. As we have seen, African American intellectuals have sought to reconstruct the black image for two reasons: first, to refute racist stereotypes and second, to instruct blacks themselves on what they—the intellectual leaders—took to be the proper way for blacks to advance, individually and collectively, when they found themselves in new circumstances.Claiming that it had realized an unprecedented level of Negro self-expression, it created a body of literature that even the most optimistic among us find wanting when compared to the blues and jazz compositions epitomized by Bessie Smith and the young Duke Ellington, two brilliant artists who were not often invited to the New Negro salons. In 1895 the new circumstance was freedom; in 1925 it was the escape from the South and the aggregation of blacks in the cities of the North.