Professor Henry Louis Gates Jr, The Alphonse Fletcher University Professor, and Director of the Hutchins Center for African and African American Research, Harvard University
Revd Professor Diarmaid MacCulloch Kt FBA, University of Oxford
The period following Reconstruction, the decade following the end of the American Civil War during which enslaved Americans were freed and made citizens, saw the drastic erasure of the rights of African Americans and the birth of de jure (“Jim Crow”) segregation. At the turn-of-the-century, African American intellectuals, desperate to protect their waning rights, embarked upon an ambitious effort of fabricate an entity that they termed “The New Negro,” who would represent “the best” of “the race,” the “natural aristocracy,” as defined by “respectability,” manners, morals, intelligence, college education, and forbearance. The term became a floating signifier, drawn upon to define several successive cultural movements, culminating in The New Negro (or Harlem) Renaissance of the 1920’s.
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