Underlying Meanings In Harlem Renaissance Poetry

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“The Battle for Understanding: Underlying meanings in Langston Hughes’ and Claude McKay’s Harlem Renaissance Poetry” Although Langston Hughes and Claude McKay are both recognized Harlem Renaissance poets, each possesses a different theme spanning across several of their poems. Whether it involves the condemnation of the white race in McKay’s “The Lynching” and “If We Must Die,” or the passive resistance style of Hughes’ “I, Too,” “Note on Commercial Theatre,” and “Theme for English B,” each author contributes a different theme to the Harlem Renaissance movement. Claude McKay writes “If We Must Die” with the style of a piece of propaganda urging the Black race to rise as one and defy the white race by dealing “one deathblow” to make their lives significant. One of the common themes in both poems is a general condemnation of the white race. He refers to little white boys dancing around a hanging body as “lynchers that were to be” in “The Lynching,” and to the white race in general as “the monsters we defy” and “the common foe” in “If We Must Die.” From these two descriptions alone the readers can ascertain a general assumption that McKay calls for active resistance to the majority white race. His form of writing is aggressive to the point of where the readers feel that he would side with W.E.B. DuBois rather than Booker T. Washington. McKay also says in “If We Must Die,” “Like men we’ll face the murderous, cowardly pack,/Pressed to the wall, dying, but fighting back!” This quotation implies that he is calling for Blacks to actively rise up against the Whites and fight for equality, which is the exact goal W.E.B. DuBois strived for. The other main idea McKay focuses on is the wrongdoings of Whites against Blacks. In “The Lynching,” he describes the crime committed against a Black man and the injustice it exemplifies. He goes on to say that even the children did
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