When Harlem Was In Vogue chapter 1 thoughts

I may as well start with the disclaimer that I read this chapter mainly for content, seeing some connections to Jazz and Purgatorio; I think it’s safe to say that mentions of the Great Migrations naturally make my brain think to the concept of movement in both Dante and Morrison’s works. Besides that, however, I can’t say that I have any concrete connections– then again it’s only chapter 1.

In a purely historical context, this book begins on an interesting note, taking my assumptions and small (very small) background knowledge on the Harlem Renaissance and suggests this book’s place in the scholarship community. I think that the prefaces, along with the HIST 302 class that Brianne and I are both taking (History of Emancipation) give a very in-depth look at how research is done and presented in a literary fashion. Before even looking at the content of Lewis’ book, I believe that I can learn a lot from its form.

I feel that “harm” is an important underlying theme of this chapter- whether it be through physical violence or institutionalized prejudice. This makes me circle back to our discussions of Jazz last fall in ENGL 458. One detail that particularly struck me in Lewis’ first chapter was the story of the lynching in Ellisville, Mississippi where an “alleged rapist” (and I don’t how to trust that word allegedly there) was “fatally wounded” by white men, but “kept alive [by a ] local white physician for the ritual the following day” (18). The ritual being referred to here being a hanging. No amount of prior reading or knowledge on the practices of the era can fully prepare anyone to learn details like that, at least in my opinion.

I would like to see how this book continues to explore migration, but I also want to keep harm in the back of my mind and thinking about how that relates to Jazz (which I have some thoughts on), but also where it fits in in Purgatorio.

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