National Collegiate Honors Council


Date of this Version


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UReCA: The NCHC Undergraduate Journal of Research and Creative Activity, 2021, pages 53-72


Copyright 2021, the author


Critical research titled Racial Consciousness, Uplift, and Justice in Harlem Renaissance Poetry by Alexandria E. Schultz in UReCA: The NCHC Undergraduate Journal of Research and Creative Activity, 2021, pages 53-72.


Were you surprised or confused by the recent Black Lives Matter protests? Were some of the arguments for or against the movement hard for you to understand? This essay intends to help readers see, through the lens of poetry, how the current Black experience in America came to be, and what Blacks have been saying and doing about their unequal circumstances for the past 100 years. Throughout the history of civil movements pursuing liberty for marginalized peoples in America and beyond, poetry stands out as an effective and widespread vehicle of advocacy. The Harlem Renaissance of the early 1920s to the late 1930s demonstrated an exceptional assemblage of activists and artists, many of whom were unified by attempts to uplift their race through writing. Tracing threads of racial consciousness, uplift, and justice through the poetry of Langston Hughes, Countee Cullen, James Weldon Johnson, and Carrie Williams Clifford, uncovers a Black aesthetic and nationalism expressing double consciousness and intersectionality, that advances recurrent themes such as reclaiming of Black history, promoting education, and advocating for civil rights. Through analysis of Johnson’s “Fifty Years,” Cullen’s “From the Dark Tower,” Clifford’s “Marching to Conquest,” Hughes’ “Let America Be America Again” and other relevant works, these topics will be further interrogated. Harlem Renaissance poetry builds the infrastructure of mid-to-late 20th century outpourings of work like the Black Arts Movement and into the first two decades of the twenty-first century, which some scholars have termed a third “Renaissance” of poetry and art. The implications of the aforementioned tenets in modern American society and in Black poetry since the Harlem Renaissance serves as a secondary goal. Enduring ripples of racism towards African Americans in the United States remain to be extinguished through contemporary creativity and advocacy, therefore investigating past themes of revolution and restoration will inform new paths to achieve authentic and lasting justice.