George Schuyler, in his tragically misguided 1926 essay for The Nation magazine, “The Negro-Art Hokum,” suggests that the only difference between Blacks and Whites is the color of skin, and that both races experience the same social, psychological and educational forces in America. He blatantly disregards American racism and inequality, and in his attempt to put forth his advocacy of color-blindness he merely projects and perpetuates the most racist of ideals within our country. Schuyler views the concept of Black Art very narrowly and insists on the impossibility of such an idea because of the supposed Americanness of the art. His essay initiated debate with many during the Harlem Renaissance—including celebrated writer Langston Hughes—and his view of colorblindness in America continues to live on even today. Schuyler inquires, “In the homes of black and white Americans of the same cultural and economic level one finds similar furniture, literature, and conversation. How, then, can the black American be expected to produce art and literature dissimilar to that of the white American?” (663). This type of thinking wholly disregards the fact that despite the cultural and economic level of the individuals, the literature and conversation in the homes of Black Artists are going to be significantly different from White artists in the country. No matter the similarity of social or socioeconomic class of the two groups, the experiences and thus the sociology will differ fundamentally because of their respective racial groups. Schuyler’s statement—as does much of his essay—unfairly groups all people together with no special attention to those who actually produce the art. I will argue that certain psychological and sociological characteristics of African Americans coupled with the ego-oriented system of American education create an experience specific to the race, and one that is therefore noteworthy.
Level of Honors
summa cum laude
Karen Hoffmann, Patrice Michaels
Acon, Derrell, "Whence Comes Black Art?: The Construction and Application of “Black Motivation”" (2011). Lawrence University Honors Projects. 113.
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