Inventing New Selves

A period of stereotypes filled the years following the emancipation of America. In return, blacks began to spiritually free themselves from the past definition into a transformative life; thus the New Negro was coined. Heroism in the arts became a key indication of progress such as the autobiography by Booker T. Washington and photography pieces by James Van Der Zee. Heroism is also displayed in other art forms such as speeches and poetry.

Within the call for heroism, the artists during this time attacked specific norms of America. Booker T. Washington strived to change the educational system for blacks in the South. W. E. B. Du Bois used his speeches to influence blacks to forfeit civil rights for work. Claude McKay’s sonnet, ‘If We Must Die’, references self-defense as a heroic theme against white oppressors. 

The various artists and examples of their accomplishments and influential works were inspiring to people. Art can vary from photography, speeches, dances, or books. From their pieces to the reason behind each art work, I believe this makes readers reflect and recognize how one piece of work can change history.

Each artist, whether it is an orator, photographer, or writer, used their passions and what they wanted the Southern population to know through their piece. Their writing, speech, poem, and photos gave hope to people during this time. 

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