Anatomy of a Predicament
Why was it that the Renaissance of literature, which
began among Negroes ten years ago, has never taken
real and lasting root? It was because it was a trans-
planted and exotic thing. It was literature written for the
benefit of white people and at the behest of white read-
ers, and started out privately from the white point of
view. It never had a real Negro constituency, and it did
not grow out of the inmost heart and frank experiences
of Negroes; on such an artificial basis no real literature
W.E.B. DUBOIS posed the classic question about the Harlem Renaissance, why it did not last. He also gave the classic answer, that the black American literary artist could not be supported by the black American public of the time. The audience for the art and its producers were both different from and socially distant from each other. African American artists thus depended on white patrons rather than on “a real Negro constituency.” Those patrons guided the art according to their own ideals, and they dropped it when their interests changed. White support for the work also distorted it, by cultivating it “privately from the white point of view.” DuBois summed up the predicament of the Harlem Renaissance: White patronage enabled African American artists to produce their work, but it guaranteed that they could
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Publication information: Book title: Zora Neale Hurston and a History of Southern Life. Contributors: Tiffany Ruby Patterson - Author. Publisher: Temple University Press. Place of publication: Philadelphia. Publication year: 2005. Page number: 159.
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