Thursday, 07 December 2017 12:50

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Harlem renaissance lasted from 1918 to 1937, and this was considered as the most powerful movement in the African American literary history. This is a movement that embraced a wide variety of fields including music, literature, visual arts, and theatre with great diversity. The two poets that I select are W.E.D Du Bois and Claude McKay.


Du bois was one of the famous black political leaders who had a lot of talent, and he was the editors of the magazine “the Crisis”. From his poems, it is evident that Du Bois is a key figure in the black community of poets in 1909 when American was facing the challenged of blacks and whites not getting along (Sayre 2011). During this time, Du Bois was extremely upset with the issue of racism, and he was trying to express his frustrations and anger in his poems that were written in double consciousness.

Claude McKay was a major poet during the movement he migrated to US in 1912 and published various poems. The poem that I will focus on is “if we must die” which is inspired by the race riots that exploded in summer and fall, in 1919. McKay poetry was able to gain respect among African Americans, and it has addressed political and social concerns. In his poems, he is expressing anger over the whites who are racists and the killings of those slaves who fought back. In the poem “if we must die”, it is showing a sense of moving forward and focusing on freedom to the slaves who fought the whites.

Double consciousness

Double consciousness is the idea of blacks possessing two minds one relating to the Negro world and the other to the American world. From the poem by Du Bois, “the souls of black folk”, it is possible to see double consciousness in the line “–a world which yields him no true self-consciousness….” (Sayre 2011). The author has been able to express double consciousness a model for understanding psycho-social existence with American people. From the line, it is clear that people used to internalize their oppression, and this are how the author saw the stereotypes that people had which divided America. Blacks tend to see themselves the way whites see them.

Double consciousness is evident in “if we must die” where he states “–let it not be like hogs”. The author is demonstrating the attitude of the white people to the black nation where the blacks are despised as accursed lot. In the third line “mad and hungry dogs” is a double personification that embodies not only the doglike nature of white people who brutalized the blacks, but also thought of the blacks as dogs who would be considered like dogs (Sayre 2011).


The theme that is being expressed in the poem “the souls of black folk” is how the Americans treated other African Americans. This is a poem that is expressing the behavior of other people and how the behavior influenced what other people thought (Sayre 2011). The minds of individuals tend to be distorted through the negative image of others. This is a poem that fully expresses sadness or the feeling of being upset about something and showing it indirectly.

The theme presented in “if we must die” tends to have been inspired by race riots that exploded in summer and fall 1919. According to McKay, he claims that blacks were not willing to settle or be treated like dogs without having to fight back. These people were willing to fight back for a good course. The poem’s theme is almost the same with that of Du Bois in that it is an expression of sadness and feeling upset (Sayre 2011). There is a theme of courage and honor in the poem as the author is informing those who are fighting to know that their death will be one of honor. According to McKay, the blacks should be strong, and they should die with dignity. Another theme from the poem “if we must die” is that of violence in the society (Sayre 2011). According to line 11 and 12, McKay tends to take the events of the summer and create a battle scene showing men fighting each other where there is a sense of anger and retaliation because of the violence.


My own poem reflecting and expressing the times during the period of Renaissance is “accept me for me”

Accept me for me

Person of the color, black, or African American

Born the same, the only difference is the color

If people will remain to be divided

Through my eyes, I see no future

Because we the same, we deserve everything in this world

We should love others, and care for the poor.

We want the same for everyone and becoming one should be our goal

Build homes for one another

We are one nation, under God

That’s how it works, accept me for me.


Sayre, M (2011). If we must die New Jersey, Prentice Hall

 Sayre, M (2011). The souls of black folk New Jersey, Prentice Hall

Janet Peter is the Managing Director of FastCustomWriting.Com a globally competitive custom essay writing company  which is the premiere provider of Essay Writing Services, Research Paper Writing Services at Term Paper Writing Services at very affordable cost. For 9 years, she has helped a number of students in different academic subjects.

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