What is the American Dream? This question must be answered in order to compare it to the Harlem Renaissance. The American Dream is the idea that every person in the United States can achieve success if they toil. This idea has its origin in the Declaration of Independence which states that "all men are created equal." The Harlem Renaissance encouraged African Americans to embrace their heritage and embody the New Negro with a sense of black pride. With the new confidence, the New Negros began to voice their opinions not only verbally but through literature.
Zora Neale Hurston writes about her experiences as an African American and about instances in which her race matters not only to her but others around her. After moving out she realizes that discrimination exists because of variation in skin color. Because the Harlem Renaissance has started a new sense of black pride she states, "BUT I AM NOT tragically colored. There is no great sorrow dammed up in my soul, nor lurking behind my eyes. I do not mind at all." With this new attitude she goes on to explain that the pigmentation of her dark skin will not get in her way of achieving her goals in life because in the end, everyone is just a person.
In this poem, a mother explains to her son that life as an African American is complicated and that sometimes " there ain’t been no light." However she describes life as a set of stairs. To reach her American Dream she must go through many obstacles that her son will also face. She warns that accomplishing his goals may not be crystal clear but says, "Don’t you set down on the steps/ ’Cause you finds it’s kinder hard./ Don’t you fall now—." In this poem Langston Hughes addresses not only the obstacles that get in the way of African Americans but also provides a character that represents hope for the future and the ambition of realizing her and her son's American Dream.
The painting, “The Ascent of Ethiopia” by Lois Mailou Jones is a clear example of the patience and journey it has taken African American to realize their dreams. The cool toned colors of the painting evoke a hopeful tone, which is then illustrated by the Egyptian figure of African origins and his path all the way to Harlem in New York. The sun in this image represents the American Dream because of the star on its center. A figure to the left is seen as it looks at the sun symbolizing that the figure will make its way there to accomplish whatever it wishes.
This article discussed how media today still uses literature from the Harlem Renaissance to demonstrate African American's ambition of a better life with social mobility. The author, Jennifer Baker, discusses that literature from the 1920's, "[was] open about issues of intraracial strife, communism, colorism, socioeconomic status, and the stakes of upward mobility." Baker continues to go into depth about how skin color has been embedded as a factor in the psyche of American people to be seen as a liability. Baker however believes that seeing the flaws of others pursuing their American Dream only helps others pursuing theirs to change their plans but to never give up. She directly stated in 2018 that even though the literature may be 100 years old "[She is] a big believer in needing to know where [African Americans have ]been to see where [they will be] going next."
Yatzari Acevedo Harlem Renaissance Inquiry Rubric