The Uprising Black Race

Published 16 Mar 2017

Racism in the United States of America still do not vanish but the condition of the black people today is much better than what their forefathers had experienced before. The peak of black expression was during the late 1800’s until few decades at the start of 1900’s. The span of the struggle was not clear for scholars but claim that the black movement efforts indeed alleviated the situation of the African-American people. According to Jacqueline Moore (Leading the Race), during 1880 to 1920 there was a small group formed by a black social elite in Washington D.C. This was the time when blacks in the southern rural areas moved to the urban north areas New York and Washington D.C. These blacks are educated, socially aware and racially aware. At first they have no intentions of creating a distinctive position in the society but the conditions of Jim Crow segregation triggered them to be a racially conscious group. The broken promises of Reconstruction (biracial cooperation and assimilation) disillusioned these African-American elites in Washington D.C. These black elites claimed the leadership over black community to maintain their status while helping the black race gain a reputation in America.

The ‘New Negro’ Alain Locke (1925) is referring to is similar to the ideals of these black elites because both are for self-expression of African-Americans to gain respect ad reputation in the world through arts, literature and education. Alain documented the advancements of the African-American people to show their cultural and social awareness and competitiveness to gain a good place in the society.

Edward Christopher Williams’ When Washington was in Vogue is long-lost epistolary novel that clearly gave picture on the developments of the African-American groups during his time. The book is about a fair-skinned Davy Carr who is writing to a friend in Harlem. His research about the slave trade in America also led him to discover the lives of dark-colored people. African-American elites enjoys engaging in Vanity fairs where they manage to mingle with other black elites whose daily activities were to dress well, to play card games at night, dinner parties, Scotch drinking, and weekends in the countryside.

The book may seem to have a shallow implications but it really showed the lifestyles of the blacks from poor to the elites. Davy Carr was a racist and sarcastic to the unique culture and traditions of the blacks. He even commented that African-American songs are cheap, vulgar, banal, dumb, no humor and does not fall on any kind of music. He also stressed that the themes of their arts were hackneyed or unoriginal and does not have any spark of intelligence. This means that Carr sees that white people like him are indeed much fine and intellectual.

The African-American elites described by Moore therefore belong to what Alain Locke’s ‘New Negro’ is and that the book of Williams gave us a picture of what was really happening to the blacks after the fall of Reconstruction period. The whites will always differ from the blacks: this may be the thinking of the black elites of Washington D.C. that was why they never aimed to imitate the culture of the whites. Instead they flourished what black people have even though the whites put a grudge over them. Even though the Reconstruction failed, several movements such as Harlem Renaissance continued the saga for the fight of race equality.

Works Cited

  • Alain Locke. Forward to The New Negro, An Interpretation. New York: Albert and Charles Boni, 1925.
  • Moore, Jacqueline M. Leading the Race: The Transformation of the Black Elite in the Nation’s Capital, 1880-1920. Virginia: University of Virginia Press, 1999.
  • Williams, Edward Christopher. “When Washington was in Vogue.” Ed. Adam McKible and Emily Bernard. HarperCollins, 1926.
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