is a period in American history where the influence of African-Americans in politics, literature, music, culture and society grew and became a part of the mainstream. The period has its roots in the early 1900’s when a migration of middle class African-Americans to a newly built suburb called Harlem in New York City caused a stir. It was 1904, in fact, when several families relocated from a section of New York City called “Black Bohemia” and homesteaded themselves to Harlem. Others followed.
In 1910, a church group and several African-American realtors bought up a large section of 135th Street and Fifth Avenue. Southern blacks, looking for paid labor, moved north to join the throng. Also during that time a new political movement emerged from the grass roots of the African-American community that started championing civil rights for blacks. This led to a rich paradigm shift in culture, education and political thought within the African-American community.
The National Association for the Advancement of Colored People got its start in 1909 and black sociologist W.E.B. DuBois, who was also a noted historian, started speaking out against the white establishment for its institutionalized racism and encouraged African-Americans to educate themselves and participate in politics and mainstream culture. Out of this movement arose a number of literary artists and musicians who managed to move into mainstream American culture and who still have wide influence in all circles of American society.
Jazz and blues were popular in Harlem as a result of the migration from the South. Paul Lawrence Dunbar accomplished national acclaim as a black writer before the turn of the century and was a huge influence on later African-American literary artists. World War I saw the recognition of Claude McKay as a poet and writer and James Weldon Johnson as a black fiction writer.
Noteworthy poets of the Harlem Renaissance include:
James Weldon Johnson
Modernism emerged with its insistent breaks with the immediate past, its different inventions, 'making it new' with elements from cultures remote in time and space. The questions of impersonality and objectivity seem to be crucial to Modernist poetry. Modernism developed out of a tradition of lyrical expression, emphasising the personal imagination, culture, emotions and memories of the poet. For the modernists, it was essential to move away from the merely personal towards an intellectual statement that poetry could make about the world. Even when they reverted to the personal, like T. S. Eliot in the Four Quartets and Ezra Pound in The Cantos, they distilled the personal into a poetic texture that claimed universal human significance.
"The modern poet has no essential alliance with regular schemes of any sorts. He/She reserves the right to adapt his/her rhythm to his/her mood, to modulate his/her meter as he progresses. Far from seeking freedom and irresponsibility, he/she seeks a stricter discipline of exact concord of thought and feeling."
After World War II, a new generation of poets sought to revoke the effort of their predecessors towards impersonality and objectivity. In the English language modernism ends with the turn towards confessional poetry in the work of Robert Lowell and Sylvia Plath, among others
The oral tradition is one that is conveyed primarily by speech as opposed to writing, in predominantly oral cultures proverbs (sometimes referred to as maxims) are convenient vehicles for conveying simple beliefs and cultural attitudes. 'The hearing knowledge we bring to a line of poetry is a knowledge of a pattern of speech we have known since we were infants'