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16. African-American Modernisms

Michelle Stephens

Subject Literature » American Literature

Period 1000 - 1999 » 1900-1999

Key-Topics African American, modernism, novel and novella

DOI: 10.1111/b.9780631206873.2009.00019.x


In the spring of 1926, the editors of the NAACP magazine, The Crisis , published a symposium entitled “The Negro in Art – How Shall He Be Portrayed?” The symposium began with a survey, sent to many leading black writers and intellectuals of the period, that posed the following questions: 1  When the artist, black or white, portrays Negro characters is he under any obligations or limitations as to the sort of character he will portray? 2  Can any author be criticized for painting the worst or the best characters of a group? 3  Can publishers be criticized for refusing to handle novels that portray Negroes of education and accomplishment, on the ground that these characters are no different from white folk and therefore not interesting? 4  What are Negroes to do when they are continually painted at their worst and judged by the public as they are painted? 5  Does the situation of the educated Negro in America with its pathos, humiliation and tragedy call for artistic treatment [that is] sincere and sympathetic … ? 6  Is not the continual portrayal of the sordid, foolish and criminal among Negroes convincing the world that this and this alone is really and essentially Negroid, and preventing white artists from knowing any other types and preventing black artists from daring to paint them? 7  Is there not a real danger that young colored writers will be tempted to follow the popular ... log in or subscribe to read full text

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