Cause and Effect Paper on Harlem Renaissance

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The Harlem Renaissance was a time period when African Americans moved to Harlem, New York to be themselves and express their culture through literature, music stage, performance, and art. The Renaissance occurred from 1918 to the mid-1930s. In Mother to Son, the author depicts the struggle an African American mother faced with oppression and prejudice throughout her life. In the poem the mother is talking to her son to prepare him for the difficult future he has ahead of him because of the persecution he will face. In Paul Laurence Dunbar’s We Wear the Mask he discusses the reaction African Americans have to oppression and racism. African Americans hide behind a mask never truly expressing themselves because of the dominant White culture. In both Mother to Son by Langston Hughes and We Wear the Mask by Paul Laurence Dunbar the author demonstrates the oppression and prejudice towards a group of people which causes them to internalize emotions. Similarly, In We Wear the Mask and America by Claude Mckay both writers illustrate the freedoms African Americans were given.

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Life for African Americans post-slavery was filled with many endeavors and it was their choice if they were going to surpass the maltreatment or yield to them. The African American mother in Mother to Son stated “Life for me ain’t been no crystal stair. It’s had tacks in it and splinters and boards torn up.” The author is trying to show that nothing in African Americans' lives was handed to them and they had to fight for each right and opportunity in their life. The tacks, splinters, and torn-up boards represent the individual challenges people of color had to endure. Langston stated “ But all the time I’se has been a climbing on and reaching landin;s and turnin’ corners and sometimes going in the dark.” When the author states reaching landings and turning corners and sometimes going in the dark he is referring to the obstacles the mother has overcome throughout her life. Likewise, later in the poem, Langston said “So boy don’t you turn back on the steps cause you to find its kinder hard. Don’t fall now!' African Americans have come too far to give up now and this mother is trying to emphasize to her son the importance of preserving through struggles and conflicts.

Post slavery African Americans were suppressed and weren’t allowed to express themselves freely. In We Wear the Mask Paul Laurence Dunbar states “We wear the mask that grins and lies, It hides our cheeks and shades our eyes, This debt we pay to human guile.” African Americans hid their emotions and pain from white people only letting them see what they wanted to be seen. When the poem says it hides our cheeks and shades our eyes Paul is saying how the “mask” African Americans wear covers up the blushing and anger that they might feel. The conflict in doing this is African Americans had to accept the pain and torment they would face each day. Dunbar wrote “With torn and bleeding hearts we smile, And mouth myriad subtleties” This shows how African Americans hid their emotions because that’s what was expected of them. People of color were supposed to be thankful for every opportunity whether they wanted it or not. Many didn’t want people to know they were unhappy about the mistreatment they were facing and concealed the pain. Paul later states “We sing, but oh the clay is vile”. African Americans were known to sing during slavery and created blues music. In the songs, they would talk about the pain and suffering they were going through. They use music to truly express themselves but white people didn’t perceive the music as literal. When Dunbar states the clay is vile he means that the world is cruel and wicked even though everyone was created equal. As many believe humans were created from clay through God's eyes.

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Cause and Effect Paper on Harlem Renaissance. (2023, November 15). Edubirdie. Retrieved May 26, 2024, from
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