Tag Archives: Harlem Renaissance

LGBT History Month 2013: Langston Hughes

19 Jun

LangstonHughesToday I would like to honor and pay tribute to Harlem Renaissance poet/writer, Langston Hughes. Although Hughes’ sexual orientation has traditionally been downplayed, like James Baldwin, he was black and openly gay. Hughes was attracted to the ideals of Communism, given the racism and homophobia  in the United States. Though Hughes never officially joined the Communist Party, he was called before the Senate Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations led by Joseph McCarthy.

Sadly, even today (46 years after his death) men of color take enormous risk to be openly gay.  We, as the LGBT community, do not do enough to support of brothers and sisters of color.  We must stand in solidarity.

I fell in love with Hughes poetry the first time I read Dream Deferred.

Dream Deferred
What happens to a dream deferred?
Does it dry up
Like a raisin in the sun?
Or fester like a sore–
And then run?
Does it stink like rotten meat?
Or crust and sugar over–
like a syrupy sweet?
Maybe it just sags
like a heavy load.
Or does it explode?

Another favorite of mine is Dream Boogie.  I will conclude this post with they lyrics of Ella’s Song by my favorite a cappella Social Justice group, Sweet Honey in the Rock:

We who believe in freedom cannot rest
We who believe in freedom cannot rest until it comes

Until the killing of Black men, Black mothers’ sons
Is as important as the killing of White men, White mothers’ sons (Refrain)

That which touches me most is that I had the chance to work with people
Passing on to others that which was passed on to me
To me young people come first, they have the courage where we fail
And if I can I’ll shed some light as they carry us through the gale (Refrain)

Struggling myself don’t mean a whole lot, I’ve come to realize
That teaching others to stand and fight is the only way the struggle survives
I’m a woman who speaks in a voice and I must be heard
At times I can be quite difficult, I’ll bow to no man’s word (Refrain)

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Black History Month 2012: Alice Dunbar Nelson

25 Feb

Today we celebrate noted poet, columnist, diarist, and activist Alice Dunbar Nelson. Born Alice Ruth Moore in New Orleans in 1875, she graduated from Dillard University in 1892 and began a career in teaching. Shortly before moving to New York in 1895, she published her first collection of poems and short stories,Violets and Other Tales. She began a correspondence with poet Paul Laurence Dunbar and moved to Washington, DC in 1898 to marry him. Dunbar was uncomfortable with his wife’s bisexuality and same-sex affairs and they separated by 1902.

She moved to Wilmington, DE at this point, returning to teaching and writing. She married journalist Robert J. Nelson in 1910. In 1915, Alice Dunbar Nelson worked as a field organizer in her region for woman’s suffrage. During World War I, she served with the Women’s Commission on the Council of National Defense and the Circle of Negro War Relief. She helped found the Industrial School for Colored Girls in Delaware, organized for anti-lynching reforms, and served 1928-1931 as executive secretary of the American Friends Inter-Racial Peace Committee.

From about 1920 on, she made a commitment to journalism and was a highly successful columnist, with articles, essays and reviews appearing as well in newspapers, magazines, and academic journals. She was a popular speaker and had an active schedule of lectures through these years. She also engaged in the arts and literature boom known as the Harlem Renaissance, a movement which included such luminaries as Langston Hughes, Nella Larsen, and Zora Neale Hurston. She died in 1935 at the age of 60.

Women’s History: April 26

26 Apr

Happy Birthday, Jessie Redmon Fauset

Happy Birthday, Jessie Redmon Fauset.  Fauset was the first African American woman in the United States elected to Phi Beta Kappa, and probably best known as the literary editor of the Crisis, (1919-1926) a newspaper started by the NAACP and named after the James Russell Lowell poem, The Present Crisis.  Fauset played a significant role in the Harlem Renaissance.  Langston Hughes called Fauset “the mid-wife” of African-American literature.  Fauset also published her own poetry and several novels including, There Is Confusion.  It was Fauset who promoted writers like Hughes, Claude McKay, and Jean Toomer.  Unfortunately, after Fauset left Crisis, she was unable to find another job in publishing because of the pervasive racism and returned to teaching. Click here to learn more about Jessie Redmon Fauset.

Women’s History: April 13

13 Apr

Happy Birthday, Nella Larsen

Happy Birthday, Nella Larsen. Larsen is best known as one of the literary voices of the Harlem Renaissance. Her novel Quicksand and her second novel Passing both address the issues of race and gender. Both novels are remarkable in how they address racism through the lens of a young girl (based on Larsen’s life), and what life looked like for a young girl to pass as white or feel safe. Larsen was the first African American woman to win a Guggenheim Fellowship.  Click here to learn more about the life of Nella Larsen.

Happy Birthday, Eudora Welty. The Pulitzer prize winning Welty was known as the First Lady of Southern Literature. Having spent most of my life in the south, I have a great appreciation for Welty. A Worn Path and Petrified Man are two of my favorites of her short stories. Welty fits perfectly with the mission of this blog–fighting racism and all forms of bigotry.

Happy Birthday, Eudora Welty


Celebrating Black History Month: February 8

8 Feb

Celebrating Langston Hughes

Today I would like to honor and pay tribute to Harlem Renaissance poet/writer, Langston Hughes. Although Hughes’ sexual orientation has traditionally been downplayed, like James Baldwin, he was black and gay. Hughes was attracted to the ideals of Communism, given the racism/homophobia  in the United States. Though Hughes never officially joined the Communist Party, he was called before Senate Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations, led by Joseph McCarthy. I fell in love with Hughes poetry the first time I read Dream Deferred.

Dream Deferred
What happens to a dream deferred?
Does it dry up
Like a raisin in the sun?
Or fester like a sore–
And then run?
Does it stink like rotten meat?
Or crust and sugar over–
like a syrupy sweet?
Maybe it just sags
like a heavy load.
Or does it explode?

Another favorite of mine is Dream Boogie. I hope you will enjoy hearing this reading of Dream Boogie. If you have not been introduced to Langston Hughes, I hope you will find some of his poetry; I can guarantee it will become a part of you.

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