A. Locke, 1980. Survey Graphic the March 1925 Number Harlem Mecca of the New Negro. Edition. Black Classic Press.
Harlem – Alain Locke
Alain Locke spends most of this essay describing the city of Harlem. Locke’s essay starts off with his interpretation of the symbolism and meaning of Harlem in which he states “It would be another statue of liberty on the landward side of New York.” But he goes on to iterate, “It stands for a folk-movement which in human significance can be compared only with the pushing back of the western frontier in the first half of the last century…” Why did Locke use the terms “pushing back” as opposed to a term that would mean to obliterate? Perhaps Locke felt as if there was equilibrium between oppressors and blacks in America, but this equilibrium could shift in either direction. “Yet in final analysis, Harlem is neither slum, ghetto, resort, or colony, though it is in part all of them. It is-or promises at least to be-a race capital.” What does Locke mean by his reference to “race capital?” Despite the contrasting descriptions in his first sentence, Locke feels that Harlem is truly a capital, for blacks, in America. He goes on to compare Harlem to Europe’s “centers” and Palestine. Lastly, Locke goes on saying “Negro life is not only founding new centers, but finding a new soul.” What does “new soul” symbolize? The term “new soul” refers to the cultural and spiritual awakening of Negro’s in America, particularly Harlem. It cups together the new era of music, art, culture, and activism in the Harlem Black communities.
Enter the New Negro – Alain Locke
Locke explains in this first and second paragraph the evolution of the Negro in America. “…the Old Negro had long become more of a myth than a man.” Additionally he adds, “So for generations in the mind of America, the Negro has been more of a formula than a human being --a something to be argued about, condemned or defended, to be "kept down," or "in his place," or "helped up," to be worried with or worried over, harassed or patronized, a social bogey or a social burden?” Why would Locke refer to an Old Negro as a myth? Locke feels that the Modern Negro (in his time) has evolved from sheltered slaves to important contributors to history though the works of Negro writers, artists, musicians and intellectuals. “The day of "aunties," "uncles" and "mammies" is equally gone. Uncle Tom and Sambo have passed on…” What does this mean? These terms, more particularly associated with the days of slavery, are a thing of the past to Locke and his audience. He believes the mixture of cultures has created a new identity and blacks in America have moved away from the key words of slavery’s past. “Harlem, as we shall see, is the center of both these movements; she is the home of the Negro’s “Zionism.” The pulse of the Negro world has begun to beat in Harlem.” Why does Locke compare Harlem to “Zionism,” a Jewish based term? Comparatively, throughout history before this time period, both Jewish and Blacks were subject to oppression. Locke reiterates this fact by stating how Harlem is the Negro’s “Zionism.” Locke feels he can relate to the history of the Jewish culture and use comparisons to express Negro’s in America and their “Harlem.”
In this essay, Johnson dives into the depths of “The Making of Harlem” and provides readers with a glimpse into the times, culture, and community of Harlem. Johnson goes into explaining the three most influential hotels in Harlem, “The Marshall, became famous as the headquarters of Negro talent…The first modern jazz band ever heard in New York, or, perhaps anywhere…” What significance did The Marshall have over Negro’s in Harlem? Much like the city itself, the Marshall hotel was a center-point for Negro art, acting, dancing, and most prolifically musicians. The hotel posed an outlet for all Negro talent to converge and triumph in the media spotlight, further increasing Black American stake in New York and America. But staking down Harlem was hardly easy, “The Hudson Reality Co, to buy in all properties occupied by colored people and evict tenants. The Negros counted by similar methods…buying and leasing houses for occupancy by colored people.” The buying of land in Harlem led to the lowering of value for the area and World War II brought about the demand for a huge work force, and high salaries along with it. This gave Harlem Blacks the capability and bank to buy up all of the land and permanently laying stake into the neighborhood. So if World War II had not occurred, how would life in Harlem differ? Should WWII had not occurred, the labor demand and salaries would not be so large. Whites, who looked to claim Harlem, would have had a much easier time doing so and probably would have succeeded. Finally, Johnson makes his final points saying “To my mind, Harlem is more than a Negro community; it is a large scale laboratory experiment in the race problem.” What was Johnson referring to in this quote? He refers to a rhetorical experiment in which the “race problem” is tested in the fact that so many Negros migrated to the North and if problems of crime would indeed follow. Johnson proclaims through friends accounts, that Negros not only migrated North with no “race problem” but contributes to New York’s greatness.
Black Workers and the City – Charles S. Johnson
Charles Johnson spends this essay with details regarding the culture and work ethics of Black workers in Harlem. Initially in the early history of Negro Harlem, there was lots of competition for work, especially from European workers. “…the incoming hordes of Europeans have edged them out of their inheritance of personal service businesses, clashed with them in competition for the rough muscle jobs and driven them back into obscurity of individual personal service.” What does the terms “individual personal service” symbolize? Johnson references this term to mean the Negro people going back into time and becoming slaves again. Not literally slaves before the time of emancipation, but a type of slave, in position or job, in which Negro would act as servants again to whites. As the Europeans begin taking all the jobs, the only jobs left for the Negros would be these types. “Negros who make up the present population of New York City would be declared to represent different races, for the differences between South and North by actual measurement are greater than the differences between whites and Negros.” Why does Johnson refer to Northern Negros as a different “race” than of Southern Negros? Johnson has observed a clear and significant difference between the Northern and Southern Negros. He has observed “The New Negro,” from particularly Harlem, in which they are more prolific in their arts, culture, music, and activism. Negros in Harlem also faced another difficult roadblock in obtaining skilled work, “In certain responsible skilled positions, such as locomotive engineers, street car and subway motormen, Negros are never employed. The distinctions are irrational.” What does Johnson mean by the last sentence in the previous quote? He feels the lack of Negro employed skilled workers are indeed irrational and they can perform skilled work just as good as any other race.