The Antinomies of Langston Hughes
If there is something in the African past that is of great importance to us to-
day, we in the Western world will be able to find it and develop it when we
have gotten rid of—and are free of—the domination of these imperialist
countries. Then we will be able to find and decide what we really want. That
is an idea that is to be put forward as a law and advocate. You cannot find
something about Africa if French imperialists and other people are sitting
on you. Your first business is to fight against them and get rid of that, and
make yourself free. Then you can decide what you really want; what is your
past and how much of it you really want to keep.
—C. L. R. James, Black World
Claude McKay's poem "Outcast" can be read as a statement of nationconsciousness. He wrote: "But the great western world holds me in fee, and I may never hope for full release while to its alien gods I bend my knee. Something in me is lost, forever lost, some vital thing has gone out of my heart, and I must walk the way of life a ghost among the sons of earth, a thing apart." While European nationalism is commonly seen as having arisen in the early nineteenth century, when "a scene of individual cultures chasing after nationhood" was ubiquitous,1 McKay's poem
1. The phrase is from Simon During's "Literature—Nationalism's Other? The Case
for Revision," 139.