Organization: Langston Hughes Society
Between the New Negro and Black Arts Movements
Langston Hughes's long career spanned these two movements, with his first collection, The Weary Blues, appearing in 1926, and his final collection, The Panther and the Lash, appearing two months after his death in 1967. The Langston Hughes Society invites papers related to the decades between the New Negro and Black Arts Movements, or to artists who are not typically associated with those movements.
Literary movements are useful frames through which to understand the emergence or articulation of artistic ideas or forms, but they can also obscure the continuity of artists whose careers outlast, emerge in the wake of, or span multiple movements. Moreover, the need to establish characteristics of a given movement -- sometimes well after the fact -- tends to exclude authors whose work may coincide with a movement but not engage with a checklist of qualities associated with the movement; for instance the framing of the 1920s as the "Harlem Renaissance" has required several critical interventions to include important aspects of the movement in Chicago, Washington, DC, and overseas.
From the fading of the fervor of the Harlem Renaissance in the mid to late 1930s through the development of the Black Arts Movement in the mid 1960s, Black writers, artists, and musicians contributed to vast cultural and political changes. The rise of jazz and blues as dominant musical forms in both counterculture and mainstream culture impacted writers from multiple racial and national backgrounds, while the independence movements in colonized countries drew the attention of writers like Richard Wright and formed international affiliations. Likewise, the slow but steady grinding of legal challenges to segregation in both the U.S. North and South provided material for writers such as Hughes, Lorraine Hansberry, and James Baldwin.
This panel explores affinities between artists and cultural and political changes during the period that separates the two most-studied movements in African American literature; the panel is open to papers that examine artists from across the African diaspora and will particularly welcome papers that show writers as precursors to later movements or engaged with the new cultural formations of their times. As such it provides an important perspective on the limits of formal movements and the continuity of artists within and beyond such movements.
Please submit abstracts between 300-500 words to the NeMLA submission page: