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The Harlem Renaissance in Black and White

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Overview

It wasn't all black or white. It wasn't a vogue. It wasn't a failure. By restoring interracial dimensions left out of accounts of the Harlem Renaissance--or blamed for corrupting it--George Hutchinson transforms our understanding of black (and white) literary modernism, interracial literary relations, and twentieth-century cultural nationalism in the United States.
What has been missing from literary histories of the time is a broader sense of the intellectual context of the Harlem Renaissance, and Hutchinson supplies that here: Boas's anthropology, Park's sociology, various strands of pragmatism and cultural nationalism--ideas that shaped the New Negro movement and the literary field, where the movement flourished. Hutchinson tracks the resulting transformation of literary institutions and organizations in the 1920s, offering a detailed account of the journals and presses, black and white, that published the work of the "New Negroes." This cultural excavation discredits bedrock assumptions about the motives of white interest in the renaissance, and about black relationships to white intellectuals of the period. It also allows a more careful investigation than ever before of the tensions among black intellectuals of the 1920s. Hutchinson's analysis shows that the general expansion of literature and the vogue of writing cannot be divorced from the explosion of black literature often attributed to the vogue of the New Negro--any more than the growing sense of "Negro" national consciousness can be divorced from expanding articulations and permutations of American nationality. The book concludes with the first full-scale interpretation of the landmark anthology The New Negro.

A courageous work that exposes the oversimplifications and misrepresentations of popular readings of the Harlem Renaissance, this book reveals the truly composite nature of American literary culture.

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Editorial Reviews

Chicago Tribune

A groundbreaking book...Much of what happened in the black creative world dovetailed with what was happening in the white artistic world, and vice versa. It's difficult to separate the two, although it has been fashionable in recent years to single out artists in both camps and argue—unconvincingly...that certain black artists sold their souls to white hegemony...The brilliance of [this book] emerges from Hutchinson's reconstruction of an era, especially his painstaking examination of the early years of the movement. Hardly a scrap of information has been ignored, and the rewards are plentiful...One finishes reading The Harlem Renaissance in Black and White with a sense of invigoration and hope.
— Charles R. Larson

Times Literary Supplement

George Hutchinson's The Harlem Renaissance in Black and White is one of those historical works that utterly and meticulously overturns most previous understanding of its subject matter. Hutchinson places the Harlem Renaissance in a wider context than previous commentators have done. He shows how the pluralist ideas of the Harlemites were part of much broader cultural and intellectual developments that took in pragmatism, the new relativistic anthropology of Franz Boas and a turn toward regionalism in fiction...Hutchinson's enthusiasm for the pragmatist outlook gives the book an energy and urgency that takes it far beyond the bounds of its historical subject matter. It deserves to be read by all those interested not just in a crucial episode of American cultural history, but in the ideal and reality of multiculturalism.
— Adam Lively

Philadelphia Inquirer

The great service of George Hutchinson's comprehensive study is its unabashed willingness to acknowledge the many inconsistent philosophical and institutional influences on those who brought the Renaissance to life: all the 'pragmatist philosophers, Boasian anthropologists, socialist theorists, and new journalists' in the background...A landmark in the field.
— Carlin Romano

American Studies

Authoritative and challenging, complex yet lucid, this volume is a welcome addition to recent studies of the Harlem Renaissance and of American cultural pluralism more generally. Hutchinson has produced an elaborate cultural history of the interactions between those writers, editors, and publishers who helped create and sustain the image of the New Negro during the 1920s.
— Martin Padget

Indian Journal of American Studies
George Hutchinson presents to us in black and white the role of both black and white intellectuals in the shaping of the Harlem Renaissance...[A] well-researched and scholarly work.
Borderlines [UK]

The greatest strength of The Harlem Renaissance in Black and White lies in the author's portrayal of the discussions of concepts of nation and race that took place in the twenties in the United States. Hutchinson insightfully reminds us that contemporary controversies on multiculturalism, the canon and African American literature were initiated and anticipated by the Harlem Renaissance authors...The interdisciplinary qualities of this study make it highly recommendable to a wide academic readership, especially those engaged in cultural studies, American history and literature.
— Pilar Sánchez Calle

Choice

Hutchinson's study opens necessary and provocative new critical directions.
— S. Bryant

Chicago Tribune - Charles R. Larson
A groundbreaking book...Much of what happened in the black creative world dovetailed with what was happening in the white artistic world, and vice versa. It's difficult to separate the two, although it has been fashionable in recent years to single out artists in both camps and argue--unconvincingly...that certain black artists sold their souls to white hegemony...The brilliance of [this book] emerges from Hutchinson's reconstruction of an era, especially his painstaking examination of the early years of the movement. Hardly a scrap of information has been ignored, and the rewards are plentiful...One finishes reading The Harlem Renaissance in Black and White with a sense of invigoration and hope.
Times Literary Supplement - Adam Lively
George Hutchinson's The Harlem Renaissance in Black and White is one of those historical works that utterly and meticulously overturns most previous understanding of its subject matter. Hutchinson places the Harlem Renaissance in a wider context than previous commentators have done. He shows how the pluralist ideas of the Harlemites were part of much broader cultural and intellectual developments that took in pragmatism, the new relativistic anthropology of Franz Boas and a turn toward regionalism in fiction...Hutchinson's enthusiasm for the pragmatist outlook gives the book an energy and urgency that takes it far beyond the bounds of its historical subject matter. It deserves to be read by all those interested not just in a crucial episode of American cultural history, but in the ideal and reality of multiculturalism.
Philadelphia Inquirer - Carlin Romano
The great service of George Hutchinson's comprehensive study is its unabashed willingness to acknowledge the many inconsistent philosophical and institutional influences on those who brought the Renaissance to life: all the 'pragmatist philosophers, Boasian anthropologists, socialist theorists, and new journalists' in the background...A landmark in the field.
American Studies - Maria Diedrich
Hutchinson's study moves the Harlem Renaissance from the periphery of American life to the center. His courageous and sophisticated redefinition of 'Americanness' subverts the comfortable Jim Crowism of the contemporary academic discourse. His approach to American Studies calls for disciples, critical disciples anxious to move beyond their mentor.
Borderlines [UK] - Pilar Sánchez Calle
The greatest strength of The Harlem Renaissance in Black and White lies in the author's portrayal of the discussions of concepts of nation and race that took place in the twenties in the United States. Hutchinson insightfully reminds us that contemporary controversies on multiculturalism, the canon and African American literature were initiated and anticipated by the Harlem Renaissance authors...The interdisciplinary qualities of this study make it highly recommendable to a wide academic readership, especially those engaged in cultural studies, American history and literature.
American Studies - Martin Padget
Authoritative and challenging, complex yet lucid, this volume is a welcome addition to recent studies of the Harlem Renaissance and of American cultural pluralism more generally. Hutchinson has produced an elaborate cultural history of the interactions between those writers, editors, and publishers who helped create and sustain the image of the New Negro during the 1920s.
Choice - S. Bryant
Hutchinson's study opens necessary and provocative new critical directions.
Henry Louis Gates Jr.
A refreshingly original analysis of a pivotal period in American cultural history. This book, in my opinion, is the most detailed and subtle study of the complex interplay between text and context, black and white, high modernism and the vernacular, in short, the hybridity that was the Renaissance.
Booknews
Hutchinson (English, American studies, U. of Tennessee-Knoxville) explores the interracial elements of the Harlem Renaissance, tracing the transformation of literary institutions and organizations in the 1920s and offering a detailed account of the black and white journals and presses that published authors of the New Negro movement. Includes an interpretation of the landmark anthology The New Negro. Annotation c. Book News, Inc., Portland, OR (booknews.com)
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780674372627
  • Publisher: Harvard University Press
  • Publication date: 1/28/1996
  • Edition description: New Edition
  • Pages: 560
  • Product dimensions: 6.75 (w) x 9.57 (h) x 1.32 (d)

Meet the Author

George Hutchinson is Professor of English and Newton C. Farr Professor of American Culture at Cornell University.
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Table of Contents

Acknowledgments
Introduction 1
1 Pragmatism and Americanism 33
2 The Americanization of "Race" and "Culture" 62
3 Cultural Pluralism and National Identity 78
4 Cultural Nationalism and the Lyrical Left 94
5 The Crisis and the Nation's Conscience 137
6 Toward a New Negro Aesthetic 170
7 Reading These United States: The Nation and The New Republic 209
8 The Native Arts of Radicalism and/or Race 250
9 V. F. Calverton, The Modern Quarterly, and an Anthology 278
10 Mediating Race and Nation: The Cultural Politics of The Messenger 289
11 "Superior Intellectual Vaudeville": American Mercury 313
12 Black Writing and Modernist American Publishing 342
13 Staging a Renaissance 389
14 The New Negro: An Interpretation 396
Epilogue 435
Notes 451
Index 533
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