The Poetry Of The Harlem Renaissance

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Harlem Renaissance is described as a movement which gained momentum in the 1920s especially after the World War I up to mid-1930s. This movement was characterised by what Richard Wormser calls “cultural, social, and artistic explosion” (Wormser, “The Harlem Renaissance 1917-1935”). Harlem during this period became a cultural center for artists, writers, poets and musicians. It can be noticed that the Harlem Renaissance was a male centric movement. Maureen Honey points out that many critics saw the women poets and authors as part of the school of “Raceless literature” (Bloom 224). This paper shall be an attempt to look at the women poets of the Harlem Renaissance especially through the works of Gwendolyn Bennet, Alice Moore Dunbar-Nelson, Anne Bethel Spencer and Helene Johnson. The paper shall also investigate how the poetry of these poets deals with the issue of race, class and gender during the 1920s. Harlem Renaissance was not a movement which simply appeared and promoted black culture. Warrington Hudlin suggests that the birth of the movement can be seen in “the dialectical development of social and political thought during the turn of the century” (Bloom 5). The movement appears when Booker T. Washington and W.E.B. Du Bois debated on the issue of racial pride and economic status of the blacks. However, it can be noticed that Du Bois and the middle class of the blacks parted ways when the former talked about agitation as means of obtaining social and political equality.
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