Different Sides of The Same Coin: the marginalization, objectification of African Americans

While reading the Opportunity by Charles Johnson, the passages that stood out to me were The Corner By Eunice Hunton Carter and The High Cost of Keeping the Negro Inferior By John C. Wright because of the way perspective is utilized in each passage to explain the subtle and not so subtle wealth and class disparities in and outside of Harlem, and how such disparities are influenced by race and blinded outsiders on how rich not only Harlem’s culture was but the culture of black people in general

In Carter’s The Corner,  from the very beginning and throughout we can see a stark contrast in the lifestyles the narrator describes. In the very first paragraph, the narrator states, “My friend lives in the house on the corner. She lives high above the street in a doll’s house of white enamel and soft blues with lovely old furniture and oriental rugs of faded brilliance on dark polished floors; in a miniature home with a real fireplace and polished grasses and flowers all about in crystal bowls (Carter 114).” This vivid description is given to us from the viewpoint of the narrator who then goes through the rest of her day seeing one by one how the cars commute from Harlem to seek pleasures and entertainment and back to the suburbs located in the city. She goes on to then compare and kind of even scold the “aliens” who passed through, and reflect on how even though the night was coming to an end the city was still alive with people, sounds, and lights. She was particularly critical of how the “aliens” moved so fast that they were missing out on what was happening right in front of them, “the young boy in the corner dancing and singing the man without legs wheeled himself along on a wooden platform and with an instrument or two gave the effect of a whole brass band (Carter 114),” and how even to this day we still see this happening with street performers. 

1910 — 1922 Vol. 20, No. 1 Du Bois, W. E. Burghardt

Another example that demonstrates this is the first modern jazz band to ever be heard in New York City. They played and sang in a dancing orchestra at The Marshall in Harlem and became the first to make use of banjos, saxophones, clarinets, and trap drums in combination to create what we now know as jazz. Comparing this to the Survey Graphic: Harlem: Mecca of the New Negro, “The Making of Harlem,” by James Weldon Johnson he talks about how Harlem is a “city within a city,” and how “a stranger is struck with surprise at the transformation which takes place after he crosses One Hundred and Twenty-fifth Street (Johnson 635).” He uses such a marker, as does Carter when she compares the house above to the street below to signal how different and unique Harlem was to the rest of the city at the time, especially illustrating how easily communities can change from just turning a corner or crossing a bridge.

The High Cost of Keeping the Negro Inferior By John C. Wright (p. 116) also stood out to me because of how he discusses and analyzes that because people in the south have these views and prejudices towards black people, basically caricaturing them, and how this perspective also with the years of generation after generation being taught this same information that the majority of white Americans in the South have little actual knowledge of black people. Wright illustrates this when talking about the overwhelming number of black people incarcerated in Florida and how propaganda stating that the “Negro is naturally trifling, dishonest, low and vicious,”  is used to “keep them inferior they must be huddled in segregated ghettos without drainage, light, pavements, or modern sanitary conveniences they must be denied justice and the right to make a decent living. They must be insulted and bullied and mobbed, discriminated against in public places, and denied access to parks and recreational centers (Wright 116).” This yet again illustrates another perspective, and just how to stark a contrast it is to Carter’s passage where the people of Harlem are overlooked or only seen as a pastime in comparison to the dehumanization and degradation Wright describes – except that they’re both describing different sides of the same coin, both groups being marginalized just in different extremes.

1910 — 1922
Vol. 18, No. 5
Du Bois, W. E. Burghardt

The DuBois magazine, The Crisis, and its covers also showcase both visually and in writing the thoughts and concerns of African Americans at the time. To quote Elizabeth Carroll “The Crisis offers a different collective portrait of African Americans and demonstrates that the changing identity of African Americans necessitated changes in American society and the functioning of American institutions (Objectivity and Social Change: Essays and News Stories in Opportunity Anne Elizabeth Carroll, Word, Image, and the New Negro : Representation and Identity in the Harlem Renaissance).” Two covers that exemplify this in relation to the passages mentioned previously are the cover for May of 1920, which featured the portrait of Mattie Flemming by Frank Walts, and the cover for September of 1919 which featured a drawing of soldiers returning back from WWI by Laura Wheeler. Both of these covers show contrasting images – one of affluence and the other of violence and war, and yet on the inside of their covers, both mention lynching and their continued struggle to just achieve the right to vote. The covers are direct parallels of each other and show how affluence and place did not stop the marginalization and mistreatment of black people.

 

                                         works cited 

Modernist journals: Crisis. A record of the darker races. vol. 20, no. 1. Modernist Journals | Crisis. A Record of the Darker Races. Vol. 20, No. 1. (n.d.). Retrieved March 9, 2022, from https://modjourn.org/issue/bdr512980/

Chapter 2 Objectivity and Social Change:Essays and News Stories in Opportunity” from Word, Image, and the New Negro

Harlem, Mecca of the new Negro.

  opportunityhttps://modjourn.org/issue/bdr512980/#

It takes perspective; Harlem in the eyes of the few

Illustration/ Poetry and photography appear to be two different creative forms of art because while one uses words, the other uses images. But they have more in common than one may believe. Photos are good for providing a visual description and getting the viewer to see what the artist has captured, while illustration leads to more room for interpretation and understanding of what the artist was going for.  

In Survey Graphic: Harlem: Mecca of the New Negro “The Making of Harlem” by James Weldon Johnson we are able to see how Johnson portrayed this and to answer this question of what creates a place if it isn’t necessarily ownership? is really the people, and the culture how one can create a place by finding people who can connect and relate to the same ideas and want the same outcome. “Harlem is not merely a Negro colony or community, it is a city within a city, the greatest Negro city in the world, It is not a slum or a fringe, it is located in the heart of Manhattan and occupies one of the most beautiful and healthful sections of the city. It is not à “quarter” of dilapidated tenements but is made up of new-law apartments and handsome dwellings, with well-paved and well-lighted streets. It has its own churches, social and civic centers, shops, theatres, and other places of amusement. And it contains more Negroes to the square mile than any other spot on earth.”(Johnson, page 635) 

With that in mind, on page 637 there is a picture of a map “This sketch map shows approximately where Negroes live in Harlem, according to a housing survey made in 1024 by the New York Urban League. The fringe of houses in which both Negro and white tenants live is not indicated. The first houses occupied by Negroes were On I34th Street east of Lenox Avenue” I include this picture because it shows Harlem it shows a visual of Harlem and how it a “city within a city” and how much history lies there, how even today walking in some parts of the city their brown street signs instead of green to showcase that (landmarks)

As well in  The Crisis covers where there are both photography and illustrations they are realistic since they depict the New Negro in their daily lives, one must both see and read to fully understand what  Du Bois was going, for example, to answer the question “How are African Americans or Black people (Negros in the language of the magazine) What makes them American? du Bois show many examples like the Vol. 18, No. 2 (1919-06-01) shows the soldiers go to war ready to fight for their country and stand for it, standing up for America. Also how in  Vol. 25, No. 2 (1922-12-01) cover of the magazine, features a photo of a young black woman in a cap and gown with a bright feature ahead. I would say this can make her American by following the “American dream” of getting higher educating and pursuing what comes after like a good job etc

Reality versus expectations: how media shapes reality past present and future

The covers of The Crisis communicate the “normality” as well as the Black perspective about the Black experiences in America because it is a direct parallel of their experiences at the time and their perspective and contributions to the different movements including art, and the first world war it shows or is an example of both the alienation and representation that Black people at this time wished to have and see in media that they didn’t have so that they made for themselves. It is media that showed them as actual humans and people and not racist caricatures (sambo as an example below/ means cartoon).  

 Like Henry Louis Gates, Jr. mentioned in The Trope of a New Negro and the Reconstruction of the Image of the Black

“These two figures bear an antithetical relation to each other, and function in a relation of reversal. Whereas the image of a “New Negro” has served various generations of black intellectuals as a sign of plenitude, of regeneration, of a truly reconstructed presence, the image of the black in what I like to think of as “Sambo Art” has served various generations of racists as a sign of lack, of degeneration, of a truly negated absence. The two sets of figures can also be said to have a certain cause-and-effect relation, with the fiction of a Negro American who is “now” somehow “new” or different from an “Old Negro” generated to counter the image in the popular American imagination of the black as devoid of all the characteristics that separate the lower forms of human life from the supposedly higher forms.” (pgs 130-131)

 He explains how this Sambo figure and art that was constructed by white people at the time dehumanized and made Black people no more than a caricature that wasn’t taken seriously or seen as capable of any “real” contributions to society especially intellectually. This is why publications such as The Crisis became popular especially among well educated Black people because it showed to them that they weren’t this caricature and they weren’t a “lower life form” than white people but that could do and contribute the exact same things be it art, media or politics regardless of the color of their skin or what racist cartoon and stereotypes showed. This “new” and “old negro” as the reading mentioned, were direct parallels of each other –  the creation of the one caused the creation of the other so that each of these images opposed each other, one seen as part of a distant past and the other as the present and future but only to the people who would put their prejudices aside to see it as such. 

 The pair of covers from the Crisis that I think represents this best are Vol. 18 no.1 and no.2  which shows a black soldier (1919-01-05)  craving the words “loyalty’’ on a plack after fighting in a war for a country that didn’t even want and then in Vol. 18, No. 2 (1919-06-01) shows the soldiers go at war ready to fight

Overview

After an exhausting period of oppression from their captors from 1886 to 1910, newly emancipated negros traveled to Harlem and transitioned into New Negros. Following years of bondage and the inability to exercise the rights that their forefathers created, they were granted these rights. The New Negro’s voice is free, and the New Negro learns to navigate this strange sense of freedom. The New Negro created poetry, educated themselves, lifted one another, and amplified their unheard voices. The New Negro established a new culture while training their voice to be loud in a world where it was unheard of in Harlem.

Uplifting the New Negro

First, the New Negro had to encourage one another after enduring years of trauma. They reminded one another that it is okay to achieve greatness like others that received a head start. Crisis magazine, edited by W.E Du Bois, depicted the beginnings of black excellence from 1910 to 1922. Women scholars (Vol 20, No.6), black love (Vol 8, No. 6), increasing black population (Vol 6, No. 6), and inviting the idea of black nationalism are a selected few of the several characterizations depicted in Crisis.

The New Negro reminded one another that it is okay to achieve feats that were once unheard of through powerful images of themselves in the distributions Crisis. Before the publication of Crisis, New Negros are represented to society as vile beings. They are not meant to survive in a society that does not cater to nor consider them. However, several other New Negros start to notice that they were not alone in the shared struggle of navigating their freedom with confusion in this society. They uplift one another through art, shared expressions, and their testimonies in Crisis.

New Negro poet, Countee Cullen, amplified his upliftment of New Negros with his voice through Crisis; Cullen published his poems “To a Brown Boy” and “To a Brown Girl”. Cullen amplifies the features of a New Negro delightfully; it is imperative that the New Negro elevates after reading.

The exhilaration of New Negros is the first step in the New Negro instituting their culture.

 

Endorsement of New Negros by New Negros

In 1925, Claude Mckay, a New Negro poet, publishes “Like a Strong Tree”. New Negros are starting to use the megaphone W.E DuBois, New Negro editor of Crisis, grants them. W.E Dubois is one of the several New Negros that places the megaphone on the voices of his peers. New Negro words are printed on paper for society to view and understand that they are resilient beings. The New Negro starts to find and accept their sense of belonging in this society. They begin to ground themselves and bury their roots deep within, “Like a Strong Tree” (“Like a Strong Tree”, Claude Mckay). There is strength in the strident voices of New Negros that are supported by one another. The New Negro becomes resilient and adapts to a lack of support in their newfound freedom in society.

The second step of instituting a New Negro culture is for the New Negro to become resilient.

Credence of a New Negro

As the years progressed, the New Negro receives endorsement from others that maintain an advantage in society. The New Negro forms an ally with the people in power of these publications; white people. White people discover their freedom in the years before the New Negro navigate their own. The New Negro continues to write poetry in response to their newfound allies. However, this poetry poked fun at their allies’ ability to understand their experience as New Negros in Harlem. The New Negro develops double consciousness. As a result, there is credence to New Negros; there is a profound understanding that the culture that the New Negro aims to build is everlasting.

The New Negro develops the confidence to speak rambunctiously, like Georgia Douglas Johnson in her poem “My Race” and Helene M. Johnson’s “The Riddle”. Both poems were published in Opportunity magazine, edited by Charles S. Johnson, in 1930. In only a few years the New Negro voice became loud as a trumpet during a jazz solo. There are more New Negros presented to the world through the publication of these magazines. These poems are intricate and criticize their allies, the people who created this society. Confidently, both poets amplify their disbelief in their ally’s ability to aid in establishing New Negro culture.

The final step for the New Negro instituting their culture is for the New Negro to bask in the built credibility of their culture. After the New Negro gains assurance of their culture, it becomes established.

 

The Established Signature of a New Negro

From 1910-to 1940, the New Negro make final adjustments to the culture raised out of nothing. They believe that they are divine beings and not vile beings. They believe in and witness greatness within their culture. They witness one another become homeowners, lovers, graduates, educators, scholars, poets, writers, editors, and several roles that once were unheard of for a New Negro in society. Their voice crescendoes from 1910 to 1940 and remains loud.

The New Negro continues to feature in relevant publications for the encouragement of other New Negros. For the foundation towards the establishment of their culture.

With the publication of Crisis, the New Negro’s voice starts off as low as the beginning of a lullaby to a baby. Then Opportunity builds the New Negros confidence about the building blocks of their culture. Their poetry and criticisms become deafening as well.

This piece analyzes the New Negro’s establishment of their culture through amplification of their voices in society from 1910 to 1940. The increase of New Negro voices is transparent through Crisis and Opportunity. The negative mental association with New Negros blossomed into something positive from 1910 to 1940. They were able to ring their voices in a society that ill-treats them. This piece analyzes the increasingly blaring sound of the New Negro permanently signing their culture into an unwelcoming world from 1910 to 1940.  

Works Cited

Angelou, Maya. “Still I Rise .” Poetry Foundation, Poetry Foundation, 1978, https://www.poetryfoundation.org/poems/46446/still-i-rise.

Bates-Rutgers, Todd. “Without Much Rain, Roots Dive Deep to Find Water.” Futurity, Futurity, 18 Sept. 2017, https://www.futurity.org/root-depth-soil-hydrology-1546972/.

Cullen, Countee. “To a Brown Boy .” Poets.org, Academy of American Poets, 1925, https://poets.org/poem/brown-boy.

Cullen, Countee. “To a Brown Girl .” Poets.org, Academy of American Poets, 1925, https://poets.org/poem/brown-girl.

Du, Bois W. E. B. The Crisis. New York: Crisis Pub. Co, 1910-

Du, Bois W.E.B. The Crisis. New York, “New Negro amplifying his freedom in poetry”: Vol. 9, No. 4 (February 1915)

Du, Bois W.E.B. The Crisis. New York, “New Negro woman and her baby amplifying their life”: The Crisis, Vol. 11, No. 4. (February 1916)

Du, Bois W.E.B. The Crisis. New York, “New Negro encouraging his brethren to amplify their voice and not be silent”: The Crisis, Vol. 13, No. 5. (March 1917)

Du, Bois W.E.B. The Crisis. New York, “New Negro woman amplifying her education possibilities”: The Crisis, Vol. 24, No. 4. (August 1922)

Gates, Henry Louis. “The Trope of a New Negro and the Reconstruction of the Image of the Black.” Representations, no. 24, 1988, pp. 129–55.

Graham, Shane. “Cultural exchange in a black Atlantic Web: South African Literature, Langston Hughes, and Negritude.” Twentieth-Century Literature, vol. 60, no. 4, winter 2014, pp.481+.

Johnson, Charles S. “Opportunity: A Journal of Negro Life.” Encyclopedia of Black Studies, 2005, https://doi.org/10.4135/9781412952538.n200.

Published by National Urban League

Johnson, Georgia Douglas. “The Riddle.” African American Registry, 1930, https://aaregistry.org/poem/the-riddle-by-geogia-douglas-johnson/.

Johnson, Helene M. “My Race.” By Helene M Johnson – Famous Poems, Famous Poets. – All Poetry, 1930, https://allpoetry.com/My-Race.

Johnson, Helene M. Johnson. “Sonnet to a Negro in Harlem”

Johnson, James Weldon, “The Making of Harlem”

Lamb, Nick. “Georgia Douglas Johnson.” Medium, Medium, 30 Mar. 2017, https://medium.com/@njacoblamb/georgia-douglas-johnson-4468ba21729b.

Lindley, Robin. “Poor Whites and Slavery in the Antebellum South: An Interview with Historian Keri Leigh Merritt.” History News Network, 2017, https://historynewsnetwork.org/article/167224.

McKay, Claude. “Like a Strong Tree by Claude McKay – Poems | Academy of American Poets.” Poets.org, Academy of American Poets, 1925, https://poets.org/poem/strong-tree.

 

 

Final Project Outline

My project will be about on idealism during the turn of the 20th century, with a focus on the negro community.

I will attempt to explain and show how the ideals of each person shaped what they did, and how it reflected upon them in their writings.

Ideals and idealism are important to be shown because they represent a goal. They’re what people put their mind onto, and the things they do everyday will slowly add up until a torrent of change finally pushes the stone away. It’s incredibly frustrating to have people say to you, “Look at reality” and completely dismiss your vision out of hand for being way too outside the norm. No matter what they say change that astounds the world can still happen, even if it’s going to be a long time in the future. Like how the world has changed is response to the idealism shown in the negro community.

I will mainly focus on my previous blog post about idealism and my blog post about what childhood would be like in this time period. My blog post will compare and contrast the idealism of children and adults and how those two viewpoints interact with each other.

 

Bibliography:
Fire magazine

The Brownies’ Book

Opportunity Magazine

How it feels to be Colored Me by Zora Houston

https://www.theatlantic.com/culture/archive/2021/02/how-w-e-b-du-bois-changed-black-childhood-america/617952/

^by Anna Holmes

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