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Interpretation Needed for a Langston Huges extract


Gooner 2 / 3  
May 1, 2010   #1
"But this is the mountain standing in the way of any true Negro art in America--this urge within the race toward whiteness, the desire to pour racial individuality into the mold of American standardization, and to be as little Negro and as much American as possible... We younger Negro artists who create now intend to express our individual dark-skinned selves without fear or shame. We know we are beautiful. And ugly too. The tom-tom cries and the tom-tom laughs. If colored people are pleased we are glad. If they are not, their displeasure doesn't matter either. We build our temples for tomorrow, strong as we know how, and we stand on top of the mountain, free within ourselves." - Langston Hughes, "The Negro Artist and the Racial Mountain," The Nation 1926

I need an explanation of this extract in terms of American society at the time (1926), and for America as a whole in terms of content and context. Essentially what the passage means and how it relates to what was going on at the time.

Thanks.
ManDan88 2 / 8  
May 1, 2010   #2
IRT Charlie

This is an interesting piece to have the opportunity to analysis. Langston Hughes was a very popular, and important component in the Negro art movement. He was drawn in by the Communist view, like so many other Africans. When looking into this excerpt, a few key points stand out.

First, there is the mountain that is

standing in the way of any true Negro art in America

. This mountain is the white oppression being used against dark artists.

Second is the urge.

this urge within the race toward whiteness, the desire to pour racial individuality into the mold of American standardization, and to be as little Negro and as much American as possible

. This shows how the Negro community [of artists] were being forced to give up their personal expression and conform to the white culture. Hughes is pushing for equality, at least in art, by stating

We younger Negro artists who create now intend to express our individual dark-skinned selves without fear or shame. We know we are beautiful.

Finally, Hughes makes the comment that

We build our temples for tomorrow, strong as we know how, and we stand on top of the mountain, free within ourselves.

This shows that even though the group he represents [which really can be identified as so much more than just that of the Negro community] are repelling the imposing standardization, and securing themselves against it.

I hope this will be of some use to you!
EF_Kevin 8 / 13320 129  
May 3, 2010   #3
Well, you must have some ideas about it, if you have read it. It is worth reading, even if you are very busy this week.

If you are supposed to interpret this, the teacher must be providing readings about the time period and the context of this passage.

Or are you supposed to do research?

It's from "The Negro Artist and the Racial Mountain" so search for that title in the school database and find things other people wrote about it.

You can also look as a biography of Hughes and see what the biographer says about the context of this work.

Google this: The Negro Artist and the Racial Mountain context

A biography is good, because the biographer will tell about the context within which he wrote "The Negro Artist and the Racial Mountain"

:-)


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