Online Texts

Du Bois, W. E. B.: The Souls of Black Folk
Du Bois, W. E. B.: The Freedmen's Bureau
Bois, W. E. B.: Of the Training of Black Men

Selected Langston Hughes poems


Encyclopaedia Africana Project Langston Hughes links
The Langston Hughes Review

Givens Collection
Givens Foundation

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Chapter Two

The New Negro

In the first few decades of this century, 'the Great Migration' brought African Americans to the cities of the North. An explosion of art, creativity and culture emerged from this era that was rightly called a black 'Renaissance.’ This renaissance was centered in New York's Harlem.


Many factors contributed to the emergence of African-American art during the period following WWI. Social, economic, political, and demographic changes contributed to the rise Harlem, and other African-American urban centers.


During this time, W.E.B. DuBois and other leaders cultivated black art and black activism side by side. DuBois was the first African American to receive a Ph.D from Harvard. His ground-breaking book "The Souls of Black Folk," was a prophetic look at the turn of the century.


DuBois was also part of the Niagara movement that created the NAACP, the first national Civil Rights organization. One of the NAACP’s efforts was publishing periodicals like "The Crisis" and the children’s magazine, "The Brownie Book." These magazines provided a venue for emerging African-American writers. These young artists, in turn, painted literary pictures of a maturing Black America.

One of these writers was Jamaican émigré poet Claud McKay. In the midst of lynching and race riots that scarred America following World War I, MacKay’s poem "If we must Die" was a poignant and powerful wakeup call.

The writer who would come to symbolize the Renaissance was Langston Hughes. Hughes writing spanned literary genres and included plays, poems, essays and autobiographies. He would become Harlem’s Poet laureate and impact and influence that is still felt today. While Hughes was one of the writers to influence the Harlem renaissance, he himself was inspired by Harlem. His poem, the Weary Blues, symbolizes the spirit and soul of Harlem.

One of the most intriguing figures of the Harlem Renaissance is Zora Neale Hurston. Raised in rural Florida, she was attending college in New York when she got involved in this new literary movement. Lillian Bridwell-Bowls (U of MN) asserts the Hurston is, "a phenomenal anthropologist, and author of what I think may be the great American novel, Their Eyes Were Watching God."

Ships at a distance have every man's wish on board. For some, they come in with the tide. For others, they sail forever on the horizon.

Never out of sight., Never landing until the watcher turns his eyes away--in resignation,

His dreams mocked to death by time. That is the life of men. Now, women forget all those things they don't want to remember And remember everything they don't want to forget.

The dream is the truth--then they act and do things accordingly.

        -Zora Neale Hurston, Their Eyes Were Watching God

In her 1942 autobiography, Dust Tracks on a Road, Hurston describes her attitude and approach while writing the 1937 novel.

I wrote Their Eyes Were Watching God in Haiti.

It was dammed up in me,-and I wrote it under internal pressure--

-in seven weeks. I wish that I could write it again.

In fact, I regret all my books. It is one of tragedies of life--

--that one cannot have all the wisdom--

-one is ever to possess, in the beginning. Hurston

Perhaps it is just as well to be rash and foolish for awhile. If writers, were too wise, perhaps no books would be written at all. Anyway, the force from somewhere in space--

--which commands you to write in the first place--

-gives you no choice. You take up the pen when you are told,--and write what is commanded.

There is no agony like bearing an untold story--

-inside of you. You have all heard of the Spartan youth with the fox under his cloak?

        -Zora Neale Hurston, Dust Tracks on a Road

In 1960, Hurston died in Florida, alone and in poverty. For decades, her work was overlooked. But contemporary Black intellectuals and authors have helped the world rediscover Hurston's work and put it in its rightful place of prominence in American literature.

In 1935, riots in Harlem symbolized the end of the Renaissance. But the spirit of the Harlem Renaissance lives on in the literature.

movieLiterature And Life: The Givens Collection - Full Show


Author: Hughes, Langston, 1902-1967.
Title: The weary blues / by Langston Hughes ; with an introduction by Carl Van Vechten.
Published: New York : A. A. Knopf, 1926.

Author: Du Bois, W. E. B. (William Edward Burghardt), 1868-1963.
Title: The souls of black folk / W. E. Burghardt Du Bois ; with introductions by Nathan Hare and Alvin F. Poussaint.
Published: New York : New American Library, 1982.

Title: Crisis (New York, N.Y.) The Crisis.
Published: <New York, Crisis Pub. Co., etc.>
v. 1- (no. 1- ); Nov. 1910-
Monthly (except bimonthly June/July and Aug./Sept.) <, Aug./Sept. 1977->

Title: The best of the Brownies' book / edited by Dianne Johnson-
Feelings ; introduction by Marian Wright Edelman.
Published: New York : Oxford University Press, c1996.

Author: McKay, Claude, 1890-1948.
Title: Harlem shadows : the poems of Claude McKay / <Claude McKay>
with an introduction by Max Eastman.
Published: New York : Harcourt, Brace and company, c1922. Author: Hurston, Zora Neale.

Title: Their eyes were watching God : a novel / Zora Neale Hurston ;
with a new foreword by Mary Helen Washington.
Published: New York : Perennial Library, 1990.

Author: Hurston, Zora Neale.
Title: Dust tracks on a road / Zora Neale Hurston ; with a foreword
by Maya Angelou.
Published: New York, NY : HarperPerennial, 1996.

Author: Locke, Alain LeRoy, 1886-1954.
Title: The new Negro : an interpretation / edited by Alain Locke ;
book decoration and portraits by Winold Reiss.
Published: New York : A. and C. Boni, 1925.

Author: Hughes, Langston, 1902-1967.
Title: The collected poems of Langston Hughes / Arnold Rampersad,
editor, David Roessel, associate editor.
Published: New York : Knopf : Distributed by Random House, c1994.

Author: Hughes, Langston, 1902-1967.
Title: The big sea : an autobiography / Langston Hughes ; foreword by Amiri Baraka.
Published: New York : Thunder's Mouth Press : Distributed by Persea Books, c1986.

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