Alain Locke believed that a New Negro—his metaphor for the new persona he saw art creating in the 1920s—required a new language, a new literacy, by which to make its new vision of itself legible for all. He located that new literacy in the work of young poets like Countee Cullen, Jean Toomer, Anne Spencer, Claude McKay, Gwendolyn Bennett, and Langston Hughes, who were “foretelling in the mirror of art what we must see and recognize in the streets of tomorrow.” Poetry occupied pride of place in his Harlem number of the Survey Graphic (March 1, 1925) and The New Negro: An Interpretation (1925). Why poetry? How did poetry express the inexpressible in the New Negro more compellingly than sociological analysis or political speech? Jeffrey C. Stewart explores these questions in an opening talk, followed by a reading and conversation with poet Mahogany L. Browne.
Other Revisiting the Harlem Renaissance course dates: April 22, May 6, and May 13, 2021.