Langston Hughes was one of the first people we have come across in this class who addressed Culture. He did this in a time of great cultural growth for the black community, during the “New Negro Movement”. He discussed the racial mountain, and how young black artists attempt to alter their work in order to better represent white culture, and climb up the racial mountain as much as they can.
Since Langston Hughes has published this article the topic has changed. Black artists have embraced their own culture for what it is, through things like hip-hop and other unique arts produced by black artists. In our current society there is a great deal of dialogue about cultural appropriation. A lot of white artists use aspects of black culture to help advance their own art, and further themselves. Most recently, rapper Post Malone has been accused of doing this, which is why i’m bringing up this topic.
I find it interesting that we are almost dealing with the reverse of what Langston Hughes was originally discussing. While the racial mountain is definitely still present, I would argue that it is less present in some fields than others, like the hop-hop/rap community which is not dominated by whites because it is unique to black culture. I do think that it should be a testament to black culture, and how far it has come, since white artists feel the need to steal a bit of black culture in order to find more success in their own work.
In Ida B Wells article “Southern Horrors”, she sheds light on the topic of lynching throughout America, but also on the media coverage of it. She provides a great critique of the media, in a time when that was not accepted by anyone of the black community, but also a woman.
When she published one of her first works in Memphis the printing press that was used to publish the document was smashed by an angry white mob. She was forced to flee the state for her own safety and go to New York, where her work would be a bit more accepted. In her article “Southern Horrors” she directly addresses how members of the black community are portrayed by the media in the South. They are described as barbaric, and that they are unable to be polite without the guidance of their former white owners. Articles like this were widely accepted by the white community, and skewed the perception of African Americans for years to come.
This is still an issue that we face today. Consistently white americans who commit crimes are described as having mental illnesses and a troubled past. Black Americans are however portrayed in a much more violent light, again displaying the bias in the media that still persists today. Its interesting to read about how activists recognized this problem in the media almost 150 years ago. But, its disheartening that its a problem we still face today.
Prior to reading the primary sources about President Lincoln and his actions before the Civil War, I was unaware of his stance on Slavery and emancipation. The main source that demonstrated his position on slavery to me was the letter he wrote to Horace Greeley.
I was always taught growing up that President Lincoln was the President who freed all of the slaves, which painted him as a hero in my eyes, and I’m sure in the eyes of my classmates as well. But, in reality his goal was not to free the slaves, but to save the union. he made this explicitly clear in his letter to Horace Greeley, “My paramount object in this struggle is to save the Union, and is not either to save or to destroy slavery. If I could save the Union without freeing any slave I would do it, and if I could save it by freeing all the slaves I would do it; and if I could save it by freeing some and leaving others alone I would also do that” (President Lincoln). Clearly as the war waged on President Lincoln saw freeing the slaves as an advantageous military strategy, which was his ultimate motivation for the Emancipation Proclamation, not because he was an abolitionist. This was interesting to me because again it demonstrates how history books you read as a child tend to be extremely biased. I think its important for children to be taught history from an unbiased perspective, rather than a white washed one. Had I never read this primary source my viewpoint on President Lincoln most likely would have never changed. Although he did ultimately free the slaves, I think it would have been extremely interesting to be able to read about the types of policies President Lincoln would have established during Reconstruction had he not been assassinated. Those policies most likely would have shed more light on President Lincoln’s true colors.