School is amazing, people.
In response to the email I sent last week:
Thanks, May, for this context. The shifting demographics of NYC are fascinating. And as one of the cities billions of outsiders, I’m always intrigued at how sprawling it is and yet how people familiar with NYC are familiar with the shifts in the demographics and meanings of individual blocks. [His wife] and I visited the city in 2007 for a week but would love to spend a longer time there at some point. (We attended church at the Harlem chapel, so added to the stream of white non-evangelical worshippers…)
To answer your question, or try: Langston Hughes described a “vogue” in “Negro writing.” Many white patrons and audiences of the time found “the Negro” fascinating, largely because of the perceived primitivism that African American culture offered, and this was manifest in cabarets in Harlem that didn’t shy away from jungle themes etc. So, a lot of Harlem Renaissance writing was supported, among white people, by this vogue, which isn’t exactly the resonant with what a lot of black artists were hoping for. So a lot of scholars have painted the Harlem Renaissance as a “failure.” These scholars also emphasize that all the black copyrights didn’t result in civil rights. But it seems to me that if we think about it in a more long-term way, the Harlem Renaissance writers had their works anthologized, and that has done quite a lot to help validate the culture, even after the Renaissance’s end. Today, I think, studying the Harlem Renaissance in a class like our would be as important as studying high modernism, and that’s an impressive climb up through the rungs of literary history.