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American culture - Essay Example

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(Name) (Professor) (Subject) (Date) The Role of African-American Literature in the 1920s The Civil War was not enough in freeing the Negro slave. He was still discriminated and treated inferiorly even after the war, and many blacks had to suffer numerous consequences brought about by racism, hatred and violence…
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Download file to see previous pages... It is true that there is a known level of resistance that confronted African-American culture during the early stages of the development of its literature (McLloyd 45). However, it is true that this was the beginning of their triumph. In an era known as the Harlem Renaissance in the 1920s, African-American literature has made black identity a “counterforce to the rationality and sterility of the capitalist modernity” (Glick 417). This means that the emergence of black culture as shown by the development of African-American literature served as a defiance of the traditional and conservative but capitalistic culture that white Americans have established. In short, black American literature served to overthrow the white American system that financially exploited African-Americans through slavery. This sense of freedom brought with it a renewed sense of identity which reflects in black literature, such as in Frederick Douglass’ Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass, where young Douglass fights back the white landowner Mr. Covey and says, “…but at this moment – from whence came the spirit I don’t know – I resolved to fight” (Douglass 62). He then says, ““I seized Covey hard by the throat, and as I did so, I rose” (62). In fact, the phrase “I rose” is rather demonstrative of the reversal of role of the black slave and the white capitalist landowner. Through Douglass’ book and other similar examples of African-American literature, the blacks have redefined themselves in the 1920s through their literary work. Although white Americans viewed the emergence of the black culture as “sexualized exoticism packaged and sold as blackness” as shown by the excesses brought about by interracial parties of Harlem jazz musicians, it is definitely different when it comes to African-American literature (418). Literature has become the defining factor in the cultural changes that the blacks experienced (Holloway 110). Through literature, the black culture is reborn and revived without the impurities of the slavery period. In Zora Neale Hurston’s “Story in Harlem Slang,” the main character of the story, who is a black woman, shouted to the white thieves, “If your [feet] don’t hurry up and take you ‘way from here, you’ll ride away [and] I’ll spread my lungs all over New York and call the law…And I’ll holler like a pretty white woman!” (Corbould 869). This means that literature was an instrument which African American writers used in the 1920s in order to assert their identity amidst white domination. Moreover, the emergence of African-American literature enhanced the development of a black culture that was actually a mixture of black and white elements. According to Morrison’s Playing in the Dark: Whiteness and the Literary Imagination, “In American literature, constructions of white national identity depend on their juxtaposition with representations of darkness, whether through the literal presence of black characters or through more metaphorical manifestations of racial difference” (Harrison-Kahan 419). This means that the perpetuation of differences between blacks and whites in black literature will simply further aggravate the social differences between them as well as the racial discrimination that whites had always had for blacks. The solution implied by Morrison was therefore the merging of white and black cultures in literature. A number of Harlem Renaissance writers responded ...Download file to see next pagesRead More
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