What do both Arthur Locke and Langston Hughes advocate in their essays "The New Negro" and "The Negro Artists and the Racial Mountain" respectively? In what ways are their arguments similar? In...

What do both Arthur Locke and Langston Hughes advocate in their essays "The New Negro" and "The Negro Artists and the Racial Mountain" respectively? In what ways are their arguments similar? In what ways are they different?

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Tamara K. H. | Middle School Teacher | (Level 3) Educator Emeritus

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In the essays "The New Negro" and "The Negro Artists and the Racial Mountain," both Arthur Locke and Langston Hughes argue that the African Americans will never gain social and political respect and acceptance if they do not respect and accept their own culture. Both authors especially point to the need to accept their own sense of artistry rather than preferring the white Americans' sense of artistry.

In his essay, Hughes points to an example of a young African American who said he wanted to be a great poet, but "not a Negro poet." Hughes correctly interprets this as a statement declaring, "I would like to be white." Hughes further draws distinctions between the different classes of African Americans showing that the wealthier and more educated the African American was, the more he/she wanted to be submerged in white culture. He points out that frequently in the middle-class African American household, things are said to children like, "Don't be like niggers" and, "Look how well a white man does things." Those who are in the wealthier African American class attend white parties, go to white Episcopalian churches, and while the wealthy men may be dark, the men marry the "lightest woman [they] can find." It's only in the lower class that appreciation for the African American culture can even be found. Hughes points out that its the lower class that created jazz, "are not afraid of spirituals," and create art that is unique to their culture. By the end of the article, he begs the people of his own race to begin embracing their own culture as a way of becoming "free within ourselves."

Similarly to Hughes, Locke also argues that freedom cannot be obtained until the African Americans embrace "racial self-expression." His point is to assert that if the African Americans can feel free to articulate, then they can also speak out against oppression. However, he takes his argument one step further than Hughes by saying that it's only through embracing their own culture that the African American can share himself/herself with the rest of America, thereby creating a unified, democratic culture. He further argues that focusing on the cultural uniqueness of the African American's own race "builds Americanism on race values," turning the handicap of racial prejudice and racial differences into an advantage (eNotes, "'The New Negro': Analysis").

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