Nationalism, Marxism, and African American Literature between the Wars: A New Pandora's Box

Nationalism, Marxism, and African American Literature between the Wars: A New Pandora's Box

Nationalism, Marxism, and African American Literature between the Wars: A New Pandora's Box

Nationalism, Marxism, and African American Literature between the Wars: A New Pandora's Box

Synopsis

A call to recognize Marxismas underestimated influence on the course of African American letters

Excerpt

Every minority and suppressed group seeks self-expression. Woodrow Wilson let off the lid of a new Pandora's box when he so eloquently preached this doctrine as the shibboleth of the war. The Negro seeks self-determination also.

Kelly Miller, “The Harvest of Race Prejudice” (1925)

Hopelessness is itself, in a temporal and factual sense, the most insupportable thing, downright intolerable to human needs. Which is why even deception, if it is to be effective, must work with flatteringly and corruptly aroused hope.

Ernst Bloch, The Principle of Hope

Marxism and nationalism constitute two of the most influential ideologies of the last century. They have generated many cultural and political movements worldwide and have radically transformed conceptions of self, culture, and society in the modern period. The goal of this study is to evaluate the great impact of Marxism and nationalism on a relatively small segment of writers from the twentieth century, particularly black writers from the Harlem Renaissance and the Depression-era proletarian literary movement. Living during those tempestuous years of economic crisis and war, many black writers found common cause with nationalist and internationalist ideologies and movements that spoke to their own desires for social equality. The “new Pandora's box” contained the hope that selfdetermination was still possible, in spite of the many disappointments bred by a history of slavery, segregation, and racism. Indeed, the twenty years between the wars were two of the most politically productive and culturally rich decades of the twentieth century for African American writers.

Yet, like the old Pandora's box, the new one also contained a mess of social evils that were set free during this period, and not only by Wood-row . . .

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