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Ridvana Becirbasic The Harlem Renaissance and Claude McKay

The Harlem Renaissance also known as New Negro movement began in 1922. The term New Negro was first used in 1895 to describe a new class of American blacks who for the first time had access to money and education. The Harlem Renaissance integrated black and white cultures and marked the beginning of a black urban society, and it also set the stage for the civil rights movement (1950s and 1960s). Harlem, a section of New York was the cosmopolitan centre of black life in America. Most African Americans migrated in Harlem, and the population increased from 100,000 to 300,000. Flowering of African Americans social thought was expressed through: paintings, music, dance, theatre and literature. They were able to express themselves and test their creativity in an environment undisrupted by white America. The New Negro movement had the element which showed the interest in the African heritage of African blacks and was held up as a source of pride. The pan-Africanism movement was embraced by W. E. B. Du Bois and Marcus Garvey. Writers that were famous in this period and were living in Harlem were the poets: Claude McKay, Jean Toomer, Langston Hughes, and Countee Cullen. Claude McKay was twenty-two when he published two collections of poems and won a medal and an award of money. In 1922 he published his collections of poems Harlem Shadows, and also he wrote several novels including Home to Harlem. McKays poetry and fiction are marked by strong protest against the injustice done to blacks. But let us look at his poem The Tropics in New York, where we can indeed sense nostalgia. The poem also reveals the sadness for lost land, and it triggers many questions: Do we have a right to be nostalgic? Are African Americans related to Africa? They are not Africans, they are Americans, because they were born in America, it does not mean if they are not the same colour as other Americans that they are not Americans and that they belong somewhere else. Maybe that is why poet was nostalgic, he sees that he is not accepted in America, thus he thinks that maybe he belongs where his ancestors were living. Well you belong where you were born, and not from where your ancestors were born. African Americans should not weep for the past, because the future and the present is where they live.

Although the slavery was over, African Americans did not have the same rights as white Americans. Racism replaced the slavery, but they fought for their freedom, and managed to gain equality. Nowadays situation is a lot better, although there still might be a bit inequality between African Americans and white Americans.