The Negro Artist and the Racial Mountain

A landmark essay of the Harlem Renaissance, Langston Hughes’s “The Negro Artist and the Racial Mountain” has since evolved from epoch-defining critique to philosophical defense of African American art. Poet and renaissance contemporary Countée Cullen’s well-known (and oft-scrutinized) demand to be known simply as “a poet—not a Negro poet” provided the invitation for Hughes to strike. Confidently and, often quite aggressively, Hughes dismisses what he sees as the misguided bourgeois aspirations of some African American writers and artists. The striving class, Hughes writes, has little to offer but for “Nordic manners, Nordic faces, Nordic hair, Nordic art (if any),” whereas the black masses—whether they know it or not—are the true vanguard of the African American cultural experience, the righteous upholding “individuality in the face of American standardization.”


By Langston Hughes

The Negro Artist and the Racial Mountain

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