Afromodernisms: Paris, Harlem, Haiti and the Avant-Garde

Afromodernisms: Paris, Harlem, Haiti and the Avant-Garde

Afromodernisms: Paris, Harlem, Haiti and the Avant-Garde

Afromodernisms: Paris, Harlem, Haiti and the Avant-Garde


Makes a persuasive case for a black Atlantic literary renaissance & its impact on modernist studies. These 10 new chapters stretch and challenge current canonical configurations of modernism in two key ways: by considering the centrality of black artists, writers and intellectuals as key actors and core presences in the development of a modernist avant-garde; and by interrogating 'blackness' as an aesthetic and political category at critical moments during the twentieth century. This is the first book-length publication to explore the term 'Afromodernisms' and the first study to address together the cognate fields of modernism and the black Atlantic.


Fionnghuala Sweeney

‘beauty is dead’

Tristan Tzara, Dada Manifesto, 1918

‘it is the bounden duty of black America to begin this great
work of the creation of beauty, of the preservation of beauty,
of the realization of beauty’

W. E. B. Du Bois, ‘Criteria of Negro Art’, 1926

What kind of world does the black interwar artist, writer and intellectual see? How do black artists, writers and intellectuals configure this world? A contemporary example of the ways in which one intellectual imagined the interrelated geographies of black experience is useful perhaps. In May of 1932, Eslanda Goode Robeson, then resident in London, wrote to George Horace Lorimer, editor of Philadelphia’s Sunday Evening Post, of her plans ‘to write a series of articles on the Negro’. Signalling her intention ‘to approach the subject from an entirely new angle’, Goode claimed that she knew ‘personally nearly every Negro of interest and importance both at home and abroad’, and that she had always enjoyed ‘such access as perhaps would never be gained by any other person, white or black’. Her idea, she explained, was to undertake ‘a leisurely world tour, stopping for an indefinite period in various Negro centers, collecting interesting general and intimate information, absorbing local color and interviewing the most important and significant personalities, and collecting photographs, – writing articles as I go’.

As the flourishing of New Negro art, literature, music, politics and philosophy in Harlem in the wake of the Great Migration and the emergence of thriving African American, Caribbean and African intellectual and art communities in Paris following the destabilisations of European colonial rule during World War I illustrate, mobility . . .

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