The New Negro Essay

1274 words - 5 pages

The New Negro is a term that was phrased during the late teens of the 1900’s as well as much of the 1920’s. The expression commonly referred to African Americans, specifically during the Harlem Renaissance, who sought to portray themselves as one of a new image, one that contrasts the “Old Negro” stereotypes and assumptions. The goal of the New Negro, frequently considered to be those of the middle class, was to construct a new representation of the Black American people. This concept stimulated massive reactions from its enthusiasts, each with a different perspective on the New Negro conception, as well as distinctive demonstrations on how to achieve such “Blackness.” Two well known contributors to the existence of the New Negro were authors and scholars Alain Locke and W.E.B. DuBois. While Locke and DuBois shared similar visions to the essentiality of the New Negro, they held dissimilar positions as to what symbolized the New Negro, as well as what qualifications were indispensable for attainment.


By the time he finished schooling, Locke had been elected to Phi Beta Kappa, been named a Rhodes Scholar at Pennsylvania, studied at Oxford University and achieved a PhD in philosophy from Harvard University (Locke and the New Negro). Locke considered Blacks and Whites of America to be equal participants of the American culture. He did not contemplate a divergence between being "American" and being "Negro," instead he developed equality between the two through cultural mutuality. “Whoever wishes to see the Negro in his essential traits,” Locke states, “must seek the enlightenment of that self-portraiture which the present developments of Negro culture are offering.” Locke believed that mere forms of expression held by African Americans, symbolizes “Blackness” in its purest form.


So it seems then that Locke was in disagreement with Du Bois' double consciousness belief. DuBois claims that “the Negro… only lets him see himself through the revelation of the other world. It is a peculiar sensation, this double-consciousness, this sense of always looking at one's self through the eyes of others, of measuring one's soul by the tape of a world that looks on in amused contempt and pity. One ever feels his twoness, an American, a Negro; two warring souls, two thoughts, two unreconciled strivings; two warring ideals in one dark body, whose dogged strength alone keeps it from being torn asunder.” From Locke’s standpoint, there is enough space for Black and White ideas and personalities to survive together, without having to concede to a “world [under] a vast veil, [living] above it in a region of blue sky” (DuBois).


Du Bois also alleges that any attempt to restructure our society completely economically will be futile because the endeavor to turn laborers into capitalists is no longer possible in the contemporary economy. Du Bois writes, “If now the world, and particularly the laboring world, should come to realize that industrial...

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