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By James Smethurst

The interval among 1880 and 1918, on the finish of which Jim Crow used to be firmly proven and the nice Migration of African americans used to be good lower than means, used to be now not the nadir for black tradition, James Smethurst finds, yet in its place a time of profound reaction from African American intellectuals. The African American Roots of Modernism explores how the Jim Crow method brought on major creative and highbrow responses from African American writers, deeply marking the beginnings of literary modernism and, eventually, notions of yank modernity.
In deciding upon the Jim Crow interval with the arriving of modernity, Smethurst upsets the generic overview of the Harlem Renaissance because the first nationally major black arts circulation, displaying how artists reacted to Jim Crow with migration narratives, poetry concerning the black adventure, black functionality of pop culture varieties, and extra. Smethurst introduces an entire solid of characters, together with understudied figures corresponding to William Stanley Braithwaite and Fenton Johnson, and extra universal authors akin to Charles Chesnutt, Pauline Hopkins, and James Weldon Johnson. via contemplating the legacy of writers and artists lively among the top of Reconstruction and the increase of the Harlem Renaissance, Smethurst illuminates their impression at the black and white U.S. modernists who followed.

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Supreme Court. There was no anti-Reconstruction equivalent of the Twenty-First Amendment that eliminated Prohibition. Thus, the dualistic fig leaf of “separate, but equal” was required in order to square Jim Crow with the highest law of the land. Again, the advance of Jim Crow and black disenfranchisement happened, 28 | DUELING BANJOS not coincidentally, while the United States became the predominant economic power in the world and, increasingly, a political world power. I say not coincidentally because this participation in international politics, particularly colonialism, was in no small part authorized by an ideology of racial superiority and was primarily promoted by a Republican Party that had, after all, arisen largely in opposition to the institution of slavery—though by the time the United States became a colonial power at the turn of the century, the GOP in the North had made its peace with Jim Crow and in the South was increasingly dominated by its pro–Jim Crow “lily white” faction (Meier, 164–65).

And considers some of the ways the work of black writers between the end of Reconstruction and the beginning of the New Negro Renaissance informed the corpus of interwar modernism. 24 | INTRODUCTION Particular attention is paid to the poetry of T. S. Eliot and William Carlos Williams and to F. Scott Fitzgerald’s The Great Gatsby and William Faulkner’s Light in August, as well as to the work of Jessie Fauset, Rudolph Fisher, Nella Larsen, Claude McKay, Wallace Thurman, and Jean Toomer, not only demonstrating structural, tonal, and thematic resonances between the work of the black writers of the Nadir and the modernists but also locating, in an extreme anxiety about racial identity primarily, but not solely, on the part of white (or, in the case of Williams perhaps, offwhite) writers, a paradoxical adoption and adaptation of the dualism of their black predecessors.

Jigs, cotillions, reels an’ breakdowns, cordrills an’ a waltz er two; Bless yo’ soul, dat music winged ’em an’ dem people lak to flew. 6 Also, Dunbar’s black dialect poetry often suggests one possible, if strange, attribute of masking—as Bigger Thomas notes about the blindness of white (and black) people in Richard Wright’s Native Son (Early Works, 542–43)— DUELING BANJOS | 35 is that it paradoxically creates a space where the black individual might be himself or herself, or at least something other than what the mask apparently suggests, at least if one were self-conscious enough.

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