The Harlem Riot In Harlem Runs Wild By Claude Mc Kay

638 words - 3 pages

The Harlem Riot in Harlem Runs Wild by Claude McKay

In Harlem Runs Wild, Claude McKay depicts the Harlem Riot of 1935 as merely "…a gesture of despair of a bewildered, baffled, and disillusioned people." (McKay 224) The Harlem Riot of 1935 was spontaneous and unpremeditated. It was not a race riot in the sense of physical conflict between white and non-white groups as there was little direct violence to white persons. McKay states, "The mass riot in Harlem was not a race riot." (McKay 221) Its distinguishing feature was the persons' attack upon property rather than persons, and resentment against whites that, while exploiting Negroes, denied them an opportunity to work. Communists did not instigate the riot, though they sought to profit by it and circulated a false and misleading leaflet after the riots were well underway. In The Invisible Man, Ras the Destroyer is shown as the primary cause of the riot that breaks out in Harlem. Scofield and Dupre begin to blame the riot on Ras, but change their beliefs and say that it is because of the heat, calling them dog days. "The alleged beating of a kid caught stealing a trifle in one of the stores merely served to explode the smoldering discontent of the black people against the Harlem merchants." (McKay 222) Historically, this sudden breach of the public order was the result of a highly emotional situation among the colored people of Harlem, due in part to the nervous strain of years of unemployment and insecurity.
Housing was the most serious community problem in Harlem. The Negro's labor dollar was further taken by the steep rental characteristic of the segregated areas where most Negroes lived. Ellison makes this quite clear to the audience as Scofield and Dupre steal coal oil and buckets from the hardware store and set them on fire in...

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