I BEG YOUR PARDON, PLEASE PART THESE PAGES: WHY THE BLACK MAGAZINE NEEDED HARLEM’S LITERARY SCENE

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2019
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Haverford College. Department of History
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Thesis
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Award
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eng
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Open Access
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Abstract
This thesis examines the role of African-American newspapers as conduits for African-American literature during the Harlem Renaissance. Since the 1827 debut of the Freedom’s Journal, the black press has been a defender for black rights, upholding the race while opposing the prejudice and slavery that many African-Americans endured. This mission was important to achieve racial equality, as it influenced slave rebellions, protests, boycotts, and demonstrations. The aftermath of the Great War, along with worsening Southern conditions, represented another rebellion; one that led African-Americans to migrate upward in the 1920s. This change uprooted many southern black lives, encouraging a “rebirth” in the North, with new opportunities for success and kinship. The modern perception of the Harlem Renaissance has been contested, especially considering the characters’ roles in supporting black rights while also “performing” under the white gaze for societal acceptance. The books of Shawn Christian Anthony and Anne Elizabeth Carroll serve as foundations with which to place the literature of the Harlem Renaissance within context as an important tool for developing the “new Negro reader,” and for combating racism by changing perceptions regarding African-Americans. Using The Crisis (NAACP), The Opportunity (National Urban League), and The Messenger as lenses, this thesis investigates the relationships between these magazines and the literature they include. Through literary analysis of the poems, one-act plays, and fragmented short stories, a connection is made between the authors behind these works and their integration within the Harlem Renaissance through the transmutation of emotional and social themes, external forms of discrimination, and internal conflicts within the black community that hinder the opportunity to form a collective identity. The authors, backed by the editors of these magazines, bring these prospects and issues to life to create a sense of sympathy and empathy for readers to connect. The thesis then supplements this information with a close reading of these literary works in juxtaposition with the surrounding articles and advertisements in their issues, showing how these magazines used literature to engage the imagination of their readers and construct a new form of black identity; one away from slavery and prejudice, to one that emphasizes the race’s diversity, community, and interconnectedness that would be sufficient to build larger connections for black writers and as they continue the fight against prejudice.
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