11 November 2018
Harlem Renaissance Activist: Langston Hughes and Ralph Ellison
The Harlem Renaissance, considered to be the rebirth of African American arts, took place in Harlem, New York. It developed the Harlem neighborhood during the early 20th century and social and artistic explosion resulted from it. The Harlem Renaissance was a turning point in black culture, it assisted African American writers and artists with more gain and control over the representation of the black culture. It also paved away for the future activists to flourish in the African American community. Some of the outcomes that came from the Harlem Renaissance where increased presence of black actors in American theatres, publications of black authors by major American publishers, and greater control by black actors in American theatres. Some of the Harlem Renaissance activists that I will be discussing throughout my paper will be Langston Hughes and Ralph Ellison. Langston Hughes and Ralph Ellison were both important poets who used the African American culture as the center of their writings and influenced others who followed and supported their work such as Zora Hurston, Wallace Thurman, and Claude McKay.
Langston Hughes, one of the most influential activists during the Harlem Renaissance, was born February 1, 1902 in Joplin, Missouri. His wide range of poetry and plays to novels had a huge impact on African Americans, which he spoke frequently about through his literary work. One of his main influences was his maternal grandmother, Mary Langston, and his success throughout his school career. Some of his other main influencers were Claude McKay and Carl Sandburg, with Sandburg being later quoted as Hughes guiding star into leading him towards writing more free verse and with a democratic state of mind. His constancy to black music led him to many novel fusions of blues and jazz through his two books, The Weary Blues (1926) and Fine Clothes to the Jew (1927).
Ralph Ellison, who is named after Ralph Waldo Emerson, was born March 1, 1913 in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma. Ellison’s father, who was indulged in literature, loved it and had hoped that in return his son would grow up to become a poet. Growing up Ellison worked a lot of jobs to help support his family and to also come up with a down payment on a trumpet. He used this trumpet to develop his skills and to play with local musicians. Later in his life, Ellison decided to attend Tuskegee University where he would study music. His English teacher Morteza Drezel Sprague was one of his most major influences. His desires to study sculpture and photography led him to meet another successful activist, Langston Hughes. Hughes brought him in to the black literary establishment with Communist sympathies. Ellison’s drive and love for music and equality drove him to become one of the most successful activist of his time.
Langston Hughes was a powerful voice during the times of the...