The Harlem Renaissance was a period where blacks had started to express themselves in many forms (such as literature, art, music, and others) in order to show their humanity to the society which looked down on them
because of their skin color and oppressed them in many demeaning ways. This period was started around the 1920’s and ended in the 1930’s (at the same time the Great Depression stroke the United States). In this period, many African American writers expressed their discontent with the supremacist, discriminatory, and standardization ideals of the whites and show how their racial view of African Americans as inferior in culture and lifestyle tarnished their life and their American Dream in many ways. Because of this, the American Dream became deferred because it had lost its values since all that it stands for was being tarnished (for example, equality, liberty, good life). The thesis of this essay is The Dream deferred in the Harlem Renaissance and the sources used are Harlem, The Weary Blues, and The Negro Artist and the Racial Mountain by Langston Hughes and If We Must Die by Claude McKay.
One poem where the American dream is shown as deferred is Harlem. First of all, in this poem, the speaker views America as a place where it’s defining dream (the American Dream) is a dream that has been deferred (the dream of freedom) and that the dream decays of its value. For example, in the poem a line says “Does it stink like rotten meat?”, the speaker clearly defines America as a country where its most priced and acknowledged dream is at decay because of how the value of equality and freedom due to racial discrimination against the African Americans. In addition, even though the speaker’s feeling towards this deferred dream is not shown directly in this poem, one can assume its negative because he speaks about how the American Dream rots, decays and dries up as it starts to become deferred.
Another poem where the American Dream is shown as deferred is in If We Must Die. First of all, in this poem, America is viewed as a place where white people oppress African Americans and hunt them down; somewhere where racial conflicts and discrimination against African Americans is abound. In addition, In this poem, the speaker shows that the American Dream is deferred because of how the value of equality and justice has decayed due to the discriminations against African Americans in how they’re abused and hunted down. Furthermore, the feelings of the speaker towards this situation is that African Americans should fight back to obtain respect and their share of their American Dream and if they fail because they’re outnumbered at least they die nobly and bravely against the white people’s oppression. For instance, in the poem a line says “Though far outnumbered let us show us brave”.
Another poem where the American Dream is shown as deferred is in Weary Blues. First of all, the speaker views America as a place where the African Americans are separated from the society and are forced to live in harsh conditions where not even the powerful union within the African Americans can change their status of life forced by the whites; the African Americans are forced to live by those who are also African Americans instead of living amongst an union with other Americans of other racial types. In addition, the American Dream has been deferred because the equality supported by the American Dream term is violated by forcing the African Americans to live in lifestyles below that of white people (in harsh conditions and forcing them to live only amongst other African Americans in an act of demeaning them). Furthermore, the feeling of the speaker towards the deferring of the American Dream is of sadness since they are forced to live in conditions opposite to those known in the American Dream term (good lifestyle and equality). For example, this is shown in the poem in lines that say “Got the Weary Blues, And I can’t be satisfied, I ain’t happy no mo’, And I wish that I had died”.
Another literary work where the American Dream is shown deferred is in The Negro Artist and the Racial Mountain. First of all, the speaker views America as a place where many African Americans do not feel proud of their ethnicity and culture and the speaker views this as an of demeaning one’s self. For example, the sentence “One of the most promising of the young Negro poets said to me once, “I want to be a poet – not a Negro poet”” shows how some African Americans demeaned themselves. In addition, the speaker also views America as a place where the society has set the standards to those of the average whites forcing African Americans to adjust to a different culture to be accepted. For instance, this is shown in the sentence that says “The road for the serious black artist, then, who would produce a racial art is most certainly rocky and the mountain is high”. Furthermore, the American Dream in this literary work is deferred because the dream of equality is decayed by the white people’s standardization of the society and by the personal demeaning of some African Americans towards their roots and culture. Moreover, the feelings of the speaker towards the deferred dream is shamefulness because African Americans should appreciate their own culture which is in no way inferior to that of the whites and that they should view themselves as equals.
In conclusion, the African Americans have being through a lot in their past and all because of the deferring of the American Dream, because of the decaying values of what the American Dream stands for at most which are Equality, Freedom, and Justice, all factors that the African American society did not get enjoy because of the abuses and oppression from the white people’s side. And still the oppression towards the African Americans either by violent conflicts against them from groups like the Ku Klux Klan, with laws that forbid them from voting in some states, with the law against their side, and wrong public view of them when they are like us, they have a thinking mind therefore they have a life, emotions and feelings. Therefore, it’s important to remember the period of the Harlem Renaissance, a period where the African American society began showing their humanity through many artistic forms and expressing themselves showing they’re part of America. This abuses surged since the creations of us humans and still keep going on worldwide whether it’s the African Americans, Latin Americans, Muslims, Jews, Communists, Socialists, and other minorities or majorities without a voice. Whether the oppressed group are the blues or reds, we all have the same value as humans and if you are the reds and the blues are oppressed, do not oppress them cause later the reds will be the oppressed and not only you will feel oppressed but also remorse (oppressors becoming oppressed).