From Fetish to Subject: Race, Modernism, and Primitivism, 1919-1935

By Carole Sweeney | Go to book overview
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CHAPTER 4
“Go to Harlem,
it’s sharper there”:
Negro: An Anthology (1934)

INTRODUCTION

About six years old, my thoughts began to be drawn towards Africa
“The Dark Continent”—with Africans dancing and drumming around me,
and I one of them, though still white, knowing, mysteriously enough, how
to dance in their own manner. Everything was full of movement in these
dreams; it was that which enabled me to escape in the end, going further,
even further! And all of it was a mixture of apprehension that sometimes
turned into joy, and even rapture.

—Nancy Cunard, Grand Man

Nancy Cunard’s Negro: An Anthology, published on February 15,1934, is a monumental work in sheer size and presence alone. The original edition, weighing almost eight pounds in its final form, features the work of 150 contributors amongst its 900 pages, which include 385 illustrations and photographs. Even in its abridged form of 464 pages, Negro is a documentary work of unabashedly oversized proportions, making its near invisibility today even more puzzling. The anthology has been all but excised from studies of literary modernism and histories of early twentieth-century ethnography and anthropology and the Harlem Renaissance. Effectively written out of all but the marginalia of black cultural histories of the twentieth century, Negro has equally failed to make any serious impact on Anglo-American modernist studies and exists only as a contextual footnote to the period. Reedited by Hugh Ford in an abridged version in 1970, the original anthology comprises 250 separate pieces organised into eight broad sections: “America,” “Negro Stars,” “Music,” “Poetry,” “West Indies and South America,” “Europe,” “Africa,” and “Ne

-71-

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