African American Roots of Modernism by James Smethurst

By James Smethurst

The interval among 1880 and 1918, on the finish of which Jim Crow used to be firmly validated and the nice Migration of African americans used to be good less than manner, used to be no longer the nadir for black tradition, James Smethurst finds, yet as an alternative a time of profound reaction from African American intellectuals. The African American Roots of Modernism explores how the Jim Crow procedure prompted major creative and highbrow responses from African American writers, deeply marking the beginnings of literary modernism and, eventually, notions of yank modernity.
In deciding upon the Jim Crow interval with the arrival of modernity, Smethurst upsets the familiar review of the Harlem Renaissance because the first nationally major black arts circulation, displaying how artists reacted to Jim Crow with migration narratives, poetry concerning the black adventure, black functionality of pop culture varieties, and extra. Smethurst introduces an entire solid of characters, together with understudied figures reminiscent of William Stanley Braithwaite and Fenton Johnson, and extra standard authors equivalent to Charles Chesnutt, Pauline Hopkins, and James Weldon Johnson. through contemplating the legacy of writers and artists lively among the tip of Reconstruction and the increase of the Harlem Renaissance, Smethurst illuminates their impact at the black and white U.S. modernists who followed.

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Their identity as citizens and Americans (and African Americans) was not represented, generally, as dependent on the adoption or rejection of a particular cultural identity but on their actions in the defense of the Republic and in attacking the institution of slavery. With the ascendancy of the Jim Crow system, the black Civil War veteran, particularly in the poetry of Dunbar, takes on a different valence. This valence is one of a betrayal or a debt not paid, of a willful forgetfulness on the part of white Americans as Jim Crow becomes a defining feature of the nation during its ascendance as the premier global industrial power and an increasingly significant international political player.

S. 5 My argument here is that while considerable attention has been paid to the formal and thematic connection of Stein’s story to black music, not enough (or really any) effort has been made to think about its links to the work of African American writers, which seem to me to be deeper. The conclusion returns to the question, What was modernism? ), and considers some of the ways the work of black writers between the end of Reconstruction and the beginning of the New Negro Renaissance informed the corpus of interwar modernism.

My feeling is that Dunbar and his work have been generally very poorly served by scholarship—at least until relatively recently with the appearance of new work on Dunbar, and new editions of Dunbar’s writings, by such scholars as Marcellus Blount, Shelley Fisher Fishkin, Geoffrey Jacques, Jennifer James, Gene Jarrett, and Gavin Jones. ” Beyond my desire to pay homage to Dunbar as well as to scholarly guides who helped me think about modernism and African American literature, especially the late Lorenzo Thomas, who taught me so much about this subject (and many others), I wish this project to be seen as part of an ongoing and growing intellectual conversation about the nature of African American literature and culture between Reconstruction and the Harlem Renaissance and its impact on the production and reception of art generally in the United States.

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Categories: African American Studies