Claude McKay's Vision of Community in the African Diaspora : A Fresh Take on Home to Harlem and Banjo Public Deposited

http://ir.library.oregonstate.edu/concern/graduate_thesis_or_dissertations/6d5701737

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  • This research examines the literary and philosophical dimensions of the African American Harlem Renaissance, beginning with the historical milieu of the early twentieth century. A social movement that became known as Uplift and the so-called Cabaret Movement emerged as important, competing literary and social ideologies within the Renaissance. W.E.B. Du Bois served as the most well-known advocate of Uplift, which recommended that blacks acquire a university education and adopt a refined middle or upper-class lifestyle. The thesis explicates the Uplift themes of The Crisis magazine, which he edited from 1910 to 1933, his novel Dark Princess and other select writings. The Cabaret novelists and poets offer an alternative to Uplift by highlighting the lives of lower class African Americans and their jazz clubs. Claude McKay established himself as a major spokesman for the Cabaret Movement with his groundbreaking novel Home to Harlem, positively featuring working class and nightlife characters and venues. McKay's novel Banjo, set in Marseilles, features a small band of men hailing from throughout the African Diaspora, living a meager but rewarding existence. Here, McKay's counter Uplift vision becomes clear, because the lives of the Marseilles group serve as a metaphor for future egalitarian and self-directed societies.
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