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Langston Hughes remembered the Harlem Renaissance as a time "when the Negro was in vogue." This period in which African American artists, literary and musical, claimed the attention of the world was a pivotal point in African-American history that retains symbolic significance.
Hughes's poem "The Weary Blues," a poem that fuses jazz, blues and poetry, defines one of the distinguishing characteristics of the 'New Negro' of the Harlem Renaissance as an urban figure, rather than a rural one. When they came to the Northern cities in hopes of a new, better life, many blacks moved to Harlem which was called the Mecca of the New Negro, the Promised Land, the City of Refuge. However the reality did not live up to the dream as blacks soon faced overcrowded conditions and employment difficulties. Still, with the largest population of blacks anywhere in the world, Harlem as part of New York City became the center of African American political and cultural life.
Nevertheless, the non-theatrical, non-intellectual Harlem became an unwilling victim of its own vogue. "The Weary Blues" portrays this part of Harlem, those who are no part of the fashion of the time. They are those who yet suffer from uncertainty as a result of the lack of money and basic comforts :
In a deep song voice with a melancholy tone
I heard that Negro sing, that old piano moan--
"Ain't got nobody but ma self,
I's gwine to quit ma frownin'
And put ma troubles on the shelf."
The final simile forms an appropriate closure to the poem--
While the Weary Blues echoed through his head.
He slept like a rock or a man that's dead--
as there seems no hope for the melancholy man who sings the blues of a lifetime that have followed him even to the North.
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