During a time where racism was at its height in America, Jim Crow laws separated blacks from mainstream white society. Where the notion of “separate but equal” was widely accepted in America, blacks were faced with adversity that they had to overcome in a race intolerant society. They were forced to face a system that compromised their freedom and rights. Blacks knew that equal was never equal and separate was definitely separate (George 8-9). Blacks had to fight for their rights because it wasn’t handed to them. Racism manifested itself on many levels and had to be fought on many levels. This gave rise to influential black leaders in the fight for civil rights. Langston Hughes was one of those black leaders who arose during the Harlem Renaissance. He gave his people a voice and encouraged pride and hope through his literary work, to overcome racial discrimination.
Langston Hughes lived during the time of the Harlem Renaissance, an African American cultural movement of the early 1920s and 1930s that was centered in the Harlem neighborhood of New York City. It also came to be known as the New Negro movement, marked the first time that mainstream publishers and critics took African American literature seriously and that African American literature and arts attracted significant attention from the nation at large. Although it was primarily a literary movement, it was closely related to developments in African American music, theater, art, and politics. This was also the time of the “Great Migration”, where more blacks were migrating from the rural South to the urban North, to seek better jobs and lives for their families (George 62). This new identity blacks to gain a new social consciousness and opportunity that was not available in the South. Although the North was a change from the slave history of the South, it wasn’t a significant change to freedom because in the North blacks still faced with segregation and were still at the mercy of a white-dominated society. Hughes lived during this time of black segregation from 1902-1967, though he faced the racism brought himself and his people he still anticipated a brighter future. In what way did Hughes express hope and pride in the black community during the time of segregation? Did Hughes ever think a change would come in America?
Hughes wrote a manifesto called “The Negro Artist and the Racial Mountain”, which was published in 1926, in the Nation. Here Hughes describes his views for a new direction in black literature and arts. He urges black intellectuals and artists to break away from the standards that the white society set for them. Hughes emphasized the theme that black is beautiful and that we should not be afraid to be ourselves. The first paragraph within “The Negro Artist and the Racial Mountain” grabs the readers attention and reveals Hughes stand of keeping and taking pride of the black culture and uniqueness.
One of the most promising of the young Negro poets said to me once, "I...