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With the appearance of the urban, modern, diverse "New Negro" in the Harlem Renaissance, writers and critics began a vibrant debate on the nature of African-American identity, community, and history. Martha Jane Nadell offers an illuminating new perspective on the period and the decades immediately following it in a fascinating exploration of the neglected role played by visual images of race in that debate.
After tracing the literary and visual images of nineteenth-century "Old Negro" stereotypes, Nadell focuses on works from the 1920s through the 1940s that showcased important visual elements. Alain Locke and Wallace Thurman published magazines and anthologies that embraced modernist images. Zora Neale Hurston's Mules and Men, with illustrations by Mexican caricaturist Miguel Covarrubias, meditated on the nature of black Southern folk culture. In the "folk history" Twelve Million Black Voices, Richard Wright matched prose to Farm Security Administration photographs. And in the 1948 Langston Hughes poetry collection One Way Ticket, Jacob Lawrence produced a series of drawings engaging with Hughes's themes of lynching, race relations, and black culture. These collaborations addressed questions at the heart of the movement and in the era that followed it: Who exactly were the New Negroes? How could they attack past stereotypes? How should images convey their sense of newness, possibility, and individuality? In what directions should African-American arts and letters move?
Featuring many compelling contemporary illustrations, Enter the New Negroes restores a critical visual aspect to African-American culture as it evokes the passion of a community determined to shape its own identity and image.
Nadell Martha Jane :
Martha Jane Nadell is Assistant Professor of English at Brooklyn College, CUNY.
Martha Jane Nadell brings a fresh approach to the study of "the New Negro." Nadell's account explores the debate among African American artists about African American identity: what or who were the New Negroes, and how best to represent them?...Nadell should be applauded for her skilful handling of both visual and textual representations and for raising important, but hitherto neglected, questions about how these two forms interact, in a way that must change the way in which we read familiar texts.
In exploring the relation between both literary and visual works and the artists who produced them, Martha Nadell offers a novel approach to a well-worn subject in a major contribution to our understanding of modernism and African-American literature. She brilliantly links an interpretation of word and image with an exceptional sense of historical trajectory. Enter the New Negroes establishes Nadell as an important and original scholar.
An impressive, at times brilliant, analysis of the relationship between visual images and black literature. Nadell brings new insights to the discussion of black culture and finds new and provocative messages in the texts she examines. This important work is a major contribution to American literary and visual arts history.
Enter the New Negroes is ambitious, vibrant, and original. To my knowledge there is no other work that explores the relationship between the visual and textual elements discussed here. The book is a unique contribution to African-American studies, American literature and art history. It provides detailed and creative readings of image and text as well as the relationship between them. Nadell's most important contribution is her discussion of the collaboration between writers and visual artists who together helped to create "the New Negro."
A brilliant, pioneering work that cuts across genres with great intellectual agility and superb scholarly complexity.
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