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The African American Roots of Modernism: From Reconstruction to the Harlem Renaissance

Overview

The period between 1880 and 1918, at the end of which Jim Crow was firmly established and the Great Migration of African Americans was well under way, was not the nadir for black culture, James Smethurst reveals, but instead a time of profound response from African American intellectuals. The African American Roots of Modernism explores how the Jim Crow system triggered significant artistic and intellectual responses from African American writers, deeply marking the beginnings of literary modernism and, ...
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The African American Roots of Modernism: From Reconstruction to the Harlem Renaissance

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Overview

The period between 1880 and 1918, at the end of which Jim Crow was firmly established and the Great Migration of African Americans was well under way, was not the nadir for black culture, James Smethurst reveals, but instead a time of profound response from African American intellectuals. The African American Roots of Modernism explores how the Jim Crow system triggered significant artistic and intellectual responses from African American writers, deeply marking the beginnings of literary modernism and, ultimately, notions of American modernity.

In identifying the Jim Crow period with the coming of modernity, Smethurst upsets the customary assessment of the Harlem Renaissance as the first nationally significant black arts movement, showing how artists reacted to Jim Crow with migration narratives, poetry about the black experience, black performance of popular culture forms, and more. Smethurst introduces a whole cast of characters, including understudied figures such as William Stanley Braithwaite and Fenton Johnson, and more familiar authors such as Charles Chesnutt, Pauline Hopkins, and James Weldon Johnson. By considering the legacy of writers and artists active between the end of Reconstruction and the rise of the Harlem Renaissance, Smethurst illuminates their influence on the black and white U.S. modernists who followed.

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
[Smethurst] reveals how the Jim Crow system triggered significant intellectual responses from Black American writers, deeply marking the beginnings of literary modernism and, ultimately, notions of American modernity.--The Courier
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Product Details

Meet the Author

James Smethurst is associate professor of Afro-American studies at the University of Massachusetts-Amherst.
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Table of Contents

Acknowledgments ix

introduction: New Forms and Captive Knights in the Age of Jim Crow and Mechanical Reproduction 1

1 Dueling Banjos: African American Dualism and Strategies for Black Representation at the Turn of the Century 27

2 Remembering "Those Noble Sons of Ham": Poetry, Soldiers, and Citizens at the End of Reconstruction 66

3 The Black City: The Early Jim Crow Migration Narrative and the New Territory of Race 96

4 Somebody Else's Civilization: African American Writers, Bohemia, and the New Poetry 123

5 A Familiar and Warm Relationship: Race, Sexual Freedom, and U.S. Literary Modernism 155

conclusion: "Our Beautiful White …" 188

Notes 217

Bibliography 231

Index 247

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