Re-Membering the African-American Past

Glenn Jordan

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


The Harlem Renaissance of the 1920s was part of the New Negro Movement that swept the USA in the early twentieth century. Through fiction, poetry, essays, music, theatre, sculpture, painting and illustration, participants in this first Black arts movement produced work that was both grounded in modernity and an engagement with African-American history, folk culture and memory. This paper focuses on two Harlem Renaissance artists, the poet and fiction writer Langston Hughes and the illustrator and mural painter Aaron Douglas, who were particularly concerned with matters of history, memory and meaning. Themes such as the African past, slavery, freedom, lynching and migration figure powerfully in their art; and they employed modes of artistic expression that were accessible to a broad audience of African Americans. I explore such works as Hughes’ ‘The Negro Speaks of Rivers’, ‘The Negro Mother’, ‘Afro-American Fragment’ and ‘Aunt Sue's Stories’ and Douglas’ four-part mural Aspects of Negro Life. I ask: What were the cultural politics of this art? Why was it so concerned with shared experience and collective memory?
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)848 - 891
Number of pages43
JournalCultural Studies
Issue number6
Publication statusPublished - 14 Sept 2011


  • cultural politics
  • Identitiy
  • Harlem Renaissance
  • New Negro
  • Langstron Hughes
  • Aaron Douglas


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