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This article is taken from PN Review 19, Volume 7 Number 5, May - June 1981.

Richard Wright and his Blueprint for Negro Writing C. W. E. Bigsby

FOR the black American writer the 1920s was a crucial decade. The population shift which saw two million Negroes move from South to North within the space of a quarter of a century was itself an event of considerable political, social and cultural significance. Harlem became, in the course of two decades, a thriving black community which generated its own institutions and art. This was the period of the Harlem Renaissance, now more properly regarded as the First Renaissance, since the 50s and 60s saw a further resurgence of activity on the part of the black writers which grew out of the social transformations of the period.

But what of the 30s, and, more particularly, what of Richard Wright whose 1940 publication of Native Son was the first sign of that revival of black writing which became the Second Renaissance?

The 30s marked an abrupt end to the First Renaissance and a shift in racial and cultural strategy. The old order was ageing. In December 1934, Rudolph Fisher and Wallace Thurman died, while James Weldon Johnson published no poetry and died in 1938. As James Young points out in Black Writers of the Thirties, 1 black writers produced less than one volume of poetry a year between 1929 and 1949. Claude McKay and Arna Bon-temps were supported by the Federal Writers Project and Langston Hughes turned largely to prose, giving poetry readings as a way of remaining financially solvent and publishing only three pamphlets of ...

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