Monday, May 26, 2008

James Weldon Johnson: "Lift Ev'ry Voice and Sing"

Lift Every Voice and Sing
James Weldon Johnson

Lift ev'ry voice and sing,
Till earth and heaven ring,
Ring with the harmonies of Liberty;
Let our rejoicing rise
High as the list'ning skies,
Let it resound loud as the rolling sea.
Sing a song full of the faith that the dark past has taught us,
Sing a song full of the hope that the present has brought us;
Facing the rising sun of our new day begun,
Let us march on till victory is won.

Stony the road we trod,
Bitter the chast'ning rod,
Felt in the days when hope unborn had died;
Yet with a steady beat,
Have not our weary feet
Come to the place for which our fathers sighed?
We have come over a way that with tears has been watered.
We have come, treading our path through the blood of the slaughtered,
Out from the gloomy past,
Till now we stand at last
Where the white gleam of our bright star is cast.

God of our weary years,
God of our silent tears,
Thou who hast brought us thus far on the way;
Thou who hast by Thy might,
Led us into the light,
Keep us forever in the path, we pray.
Lest our feet stray from the places, our God, where we met Thee,
Lest our hearts, drunk with the wine of the world, we forget Thee;
Shadowed beneath Thy hand,
May we forever stand,
True to our God,
True to our native land.
This song was first a poem which was then set to music and as it grew to popularity, it became known as the “Black National Anthem”. This song refers to the church as the base to reach out, the history of a people to look back upon and learn from, and the marches that will lead the people in to a victory. This song gives hope to the people as a whole. It helps that it also has a good beat and is easy to learn.
At this time of protests and fighting, this song helped to push on a people to reach the victory that they so sought. The church had a hand in the movement with the legislation while the marches and protests, though they got hard at some times, helped to gain visibility and eventually acceptance into white society. This song tells the story of the movement and is why this song is still known today by many.

Faith Ringgold: "Die"

This paintingby Faith Ringgold uses bold colors and simple shapes to create a powerful piece. The feeling created by there people trying to kill each other is fear and hatred. Though in the center you find two children, one white, one black, united by their fears yet the adults tear each other apart because of it. The pain in this painting gives a hint to the viewer the hatred and fear of the time on both sides.
This time was a period of fear and from white people and strength masking fear from the black people. This caused a lot of violence during the period that the children saw and didn’t know how to deal with it. The children never saw in terms of black or white but were forced to by their families. Though this painting shows that fear of the unknown is universal.

Maya Angelou: "Alone"

Maya Angelou

Lying, thinking
Last night
How to find my soul a home
Where water is not thirsty
And bread loaf is not stone
I came up with one thing
And I don't believe I'm wrong
That nobody,
But nobody
Can make it out here alone.
Alone, all alone
Nobody, but nobody
Can make it out here alone.
There are some millionaires
With money they can't use
Their wives run round like banshees
Their children sing the blues
They've got expensive doctors
To cure their hearts of stone.
But nobody
No, nobody
Can make it out here alone.
Alone, all alone
Nobody, but nobody
Can make it out here alone.
Now if you listen closely
I'll tell you what I know
Storm clouds are gathering
The wind is gonna blow
The race of man is suffering
And I can hear the moan,
'Cause nobody,
But nobody
Can make it out here alone.
Alone, all alone
Nobody, but nobody
Can make it out here alone.
This poem uses prose from the times to represent the feelings of brotherhood and camaraderie needed to weather the storm. Using examples, syntax and repetition, she expressed the ideal that you can’t achieve anything alone. She explains that you need people with you to help you throughout your life. She uses a kind of slang of the period to show the cultural relaxedness of the language at the time. The language and sentence structure helps to paint a picture of what black people felt during this period.
The Civil Rights Movement was a time of uprising, striking out for their rights, protesting, writing, and speaking out in general. In her poem, Maya Angelou explains the main idea that they could not achieve their ultimate goal alone and that together, many things, if not, everything was possible. The brotherhood is a cord felt throughout this period that kept African American together though this period. What was achieved could not have been without this. This poem helps to exemplify this fact.

John Birks "Dizzy" Gillespie: "Umbrella Man"

This video shows the music of the time, but focusing on Dizzy Gillespie (Light suited trumpet player) he helped to create the jazz age which began in the Harlem Renaissance. The Jazz Age helped to being about a different way of expression and he influenced name up and coming musicians well throughout the Harlem Renaissance and even after. The music that the plays, though with little music or meaning to most conveys most of its feeling though the instrumentals rather than the words themselves.
Feelings and beliefs about the world around them were represented and felt more than said. This is prevalent in the art and the music and even the mood of the prose of this period. The feelings conveyed though the music was a way for African Americans to express themselves without getting shut down why the white people and the police so the use of metaphors in the words and the instrumentals were understood by the Black people and few else. This helped to create a brotherhood through the period that is prevalent through the Harlem renaissance and on through the Jazz Era.

Georgia Douglas Johnson: "Black Woman"

Don’t knock at the door, little child,
I cannot let you in,
You know not what a world this is
Of cruelty and sin.
Wait in the still eternity
Until I come to you,
The world is cruel, cruel, child,
I cannot let you in!
Don’t knock at my heart, little one,
I cannot bear the pain
Of turning deaf-ear to your call
Time and time again!
You do not know the monster men
Inhabiting the earth,
Be still, be still, my precious child,
I must not give you birth!
This poem represents the fear of the times of black women bringing children into the world. The discontent, the racism, the violence and the pain that black people had to endure just to live in America were seen as too much for a child. In this poem also, they refer to white men/ police as monsters and try to protect the children from them. Though the overall mood of the poem is of fear for her unborn child and resignation to the way the world is.
The Harlem Renaissance was a time of cultural expression, but also a time of fear and malcontent. Black men were disrespected and mistreated and children were seeing this as a part of everyday life. Women were afraid for their children and the use of villainizing the police and white men was prevalent in the period. The frustrations of the black woman in a man’s world are seen in the piece that isn’t seen in other pieces done by the men of this period so that it gives you insight into the might of the black woman then.

Claude McKay: "If We Must Die"

If We Must Die
Claude McKay

If we must die--let it not be like hogs
Hunted and penned in an inglorious spot,
While round us bark the mad and hungry dogs,
Making their mock at our accursed lot.
If we must die--oh, let us nobly die,
So that our precious blood may not be shed
In vain; then even the monsters we defy
Shall be constrained to honor us though dead!
Oh, Kinsmen! We must meet the common foe;
Though far outnumbered, let us show us brave,
And for their thousand blows deal one deathblow!
What though before us lies the open grave?
Like men we'll face the murderous, cowardly pack,
Pressed to the wall, dying, but fighting back!
This poem shows the rebelliousness of the period in respect to the disrespect that African Americans received just because of the color of their skin. This poem uses metaphors of dogs and monsters creating the connotation of a great evil attacking a helpless people. He shows the African people as hogs, penned and helpless, unable to fight yet scared and uncertain. He doesn’t call to fight, but instead tells them to same their strength for that one death blow rather than returning every blow that they give. He creates no false hopes by saying that no one will die, but instead tells the men to die not in vain.
This embodies the period because it shows the level of discontent throughout the black community at this time with the white people and more importantly the cops. During this time were Jim Cow laws and high levels of racism in every facet of the world. This poem shows that even though they were scared and angry, they knew that it may be a long time until they won, but that when they did, the ones who died will not have died in vain.

Palmer Hayden: Baptism

This piece of art by Palmer Hayden
shows the importance of church in the black community. It is important to the time period because it uses the bright colors in contrast to the black faces and shows the use of African techniques with large blocky and shapes and liberal use of color. The expressionism of the painting shows that the ones being baptized are being brought into the light. They are shown as closest to the center with the onlookers radiating about this point.
The time period of the Harlem Renaissance was a tine of black people expressing their culture while looking back towards their roots and the church is deeply planted in the black community. It uses the techniques of more tribal artwork with modernistic techniques to show the culture of the artist. The techniques of using light and dark to show light upon the baptized and darkness in the water shows a tie to the church and a belief that religion helps to enlighten. Using all these aspects together helps to tie the art to the time period while looking back to the artist’s cultural roots in the motherland.