Category Archives: USD Humanities Center Youtube Video

“Black Self-Identification during the Times of Anonymity” – RJ Parry

The lack of identity in the time of the “old negro”, during the Harlem Renaissance, has created the narrative to spark the significance of selfhood that made black americans redefine oneself. Instances of self-determination and black pride are created from the birth of the “New Negro” impacting America. These events are expressed through the emergence of black self-identity during times of sentimentalism, power of imagination, and the emergence of the new negro. The Harlem Renaissance created a platform where New Negro leaders and celebrities were centered and the upbringing of black newspapers in the era. I reference University of San Diego Humanities Center youtube channel where the host, Jamall Calloway Ph.D Department of Theology and Religious Studies introduces Souls of Black Folks – Harlem Renaissance, and Dr. Corey Barnes PhD, Department of Philosophy at USD. 

A great depiction of how the normalization of racial injustice was met, can be presented in Langston Hughes’ poem I too, “I too sing america, I am the darker brother they send me to eat in the kitchen when company comes but I laugh and I eat well and grow strong, tomorrow I’ll be at the table when company comes, nobody’ll dare say to me go eat in the kitchen, then they’ll see how beautiful we are and they will be ashamed, I too am America.” (Langston Hughes, I Too, 1926). Langston uses descriptive pronouns, they, to depict the plethora of white:  interactions, events, and social stances African Americans have faced. As an black national activist, Langston Hughes uses his platform for the black audience craving black identity, as he challenges the morals of white america while referencing the emergence of the “new negro”. Dr. Corey Barnes depicts what the “new negro” stands for, “The new negro, promoted the psychological deposition of the black person who would come to possess certain drives and abilities.” (Dr. Corey Barnes, Souls of Black Folks – Harlem Renaissance). These drives and abilities during the time of racial neglect, creates the stepping stones for the future of the next Black Americans. To first see the impact on how self-identity and self-recovery has on a nation within a nation we first need to understand the origins of the “old negro”. Elaine Locke a figure of the father of the harlem renaissance, with a Ph.D in philosophy from Harvard states, “The Old negro had long become more a myth than a man or woman.” (Dr. Corey Barnes on Elaine Locke, Souls of Black Folks – Harlem Renaissance) Dr. Corey Barnes elaborates on the effects on how myths can affect the black community in America, “Being a stock figure perpetuated historical fiction partly an innocent sentimentalism partly in deliberate reactionism…Sentimentalist have produced a imagine as black as a childlike figure who required white sympathy for his or her play, without which he or she could not stand or live, bought out to simianized caricature setup to unjustify the treatment of the negro. The negro should not be allowed to stand or live.” (Dr. Corey Barnes, Souls of Black Folks – Harlem Renaissance). The idea of white sympathy correlates to being a controller in American society. An example of white sympathy can be found through the white sentimentalist racial ideology that strays away from where black society thrives, promoting sensitive ideas, emotions, and polices. This bolsters white control over America can be referenced in Freedom on My Mind, “At the turn of the century, white supremacists devised new laws that required segregation in schools and public places, demeaning blacks and circumscribing their participation in the economic, social, and political life of the South.” (Freedom on My Mind by Deborah Gray White, Mia Bay, and Waldo E. Martin Jr, Chapter 10) 

Jamall Calloway raises the question on Souls of Black Folks – Harlem Renaissance episode of the USD Humanities Center Youtube, what connects the parts of philosophy that underlines black commitment? Dr. Corey Barnes references the power of culture through the great migration, “More than half a million black people migrated from the south to the west, the migration put blacks in greater contact with themselves and where more culture products were more easily access, thus more of an emphasis of culture itself, a blending of world views and both a clash and a sharing of culture products and strategies for racial uplift“ This uplift disproves that idea of white sentimentalism is an effective strategy for the American society. As Elaine Locke stated, “the old negro had long become more a myth than a man or women.” This now myth of the old negro can be proven due to black: institutions, culture, letters, and articles because of the new emergence of the New negro. Nathaniel huggins tells us, “by the end of the war in 1919 african-americans notice that the negro of post-war america was going to be much more militant than his pre-war brother“ (Dr. Corey Barnes on Nathaniel Huggins, Souls of Black Folks – Harlem Renaissance). These parts connect communities and inspire hope, a large part of the Harlem renaissance movement are the Black newspapers. Floyd G. Snelson a black editor of Churches states, “Don’t think that New York is your home, because you have been here before, and you have friends here– it is not mentioned once in Heaven.. Don’t come here unless you have MONEY to pay your way – your friends and relatives are not able to take care of you – they are hardly able to take care of themselves… because when your money gives out, your welcome is gone… Don’t expose your money, or let anybody know your personal affairs… “(Negro Capital of the Nation, 1939) I picked this quote, as Snelson is promoting that the successful life in Harlem, New York isn’t easy, and once you think you have made it: events, politics, friends, family, and other factors can change your once fortunate situation to fade away. Snelson is blunt and real because when resistance occurs it’s not a joke. Snelson addresses that being comfortable in America can change fast. Government and policies in America lessened black accommodation and increased political agitation. John Hope Franklin, historian specialized in African American history states “That the negro had achieved a level of articulation that made it possible for them to transform their feelings into a variety of literary forms, majority of african americans didn’t have the ability to read to write, not yet understand their power to capture the imagination of others in the world, however in the mid 1900s more african americans on harlem had exposure to letters and literature, one might imagine that these had the impact on imagination terms of inquisitiveness or creativity but also in its use for social and political uplift.”(Dr. Corey Barnes on John Hope Franklin, Souls of Black Folks – Harlem Renaissance) Promotion of black voices with powers of imagination can create a much needed push for black education, our lecture states, “The development of institutions committed to the social scientific and historical study of the conditions of Black Lives and communities – and affiliated academic journals, magazines, and publications… aimed to establish universal, cross-regional Black Liberation/emancipation, race pride, and solidarity.” (Week 12, HIST-128 African American History) 

Black ideology, culture, and persistence has achieved greatness during arbitrary America. “We younger Negro artists who create now intend to express our individual dark-skinned selves without fear or shame. If white people are pleased we are glad. If they are not, it doesn’t matter. We know we are beautiful. And ugly too.” – Langston Hughes (Week 12, HIST-128 African American History). As Hughes puts it, the expression of black identity is beautiful and benefits society. Whether white society can create laws, policies, or media prohibiting black expansion black elegance will always bleed through. I’d like to prompt Hughes’ use of “tomorrow” in the poem I too. While Langston makes the point of, “tomorrow I’ll be at the table” tomorrow doesn’t directly correlate with its definition. This term tomorrow alludes to a time in the future in which black and white people are equal. I question when the time where black and white will be equal, but birth of the “new negro” impacts the future black generations to come.


Works Cited

Hughes, L. (n.d.). I, too, by Langston Hughes. Poetry Foundation.

Souls of Black Folks – Harlem Renaissance. (2021). YouTube. Retrieved May 2023, from  

White, D. G., Bay, M., & Martin, W. E. (2021). Freedom on my mind: A history of African Americans, with documents. Bedford/St. Martins.   

Snelson, F. G. (n.d.). Negro capital of the nation. Churches. Retrieved from .  

Blog – Cory Killip

I will be writing my blog about the “Black Present and Presence – Ubiquitous Black Ideologies & Conceptions of Art” Lecture presented by Dr. Susie Bhaka (Department of Theology and Religious Studies at University of San Diego), and Dr. Corey Barnes (Department of Philosophy at University of San Diego). This lecture aimed to highlight historical African American communal traditions, ideologies, and arts practiced throughout recent history. Doctrines discussed in this lecture allow us to deeply analyze, empathize with, provide insight and detail to, and better understand African American History.

One of the Main topics from the lecture was the Black Aesthetic Experience. The Black Aesthetic Experience is a term used to describe the cultural and artistic expressions of black people throughout history. It encompasses a wide range of creative practices, including literature, music, visual art, theater, dance, and film, and is rooted in the historical experiences of black people. One example of the Black Aesthetic discussed in the lecture described in detail how black people on slave ships would cut each other’s hair in order to maintain a certain look. According to John Gabriel Stedman who was a white oppressionist aboard one of these slave ships, “All slaves are led upon deck, where they are examined by the purchasers, who are very attentive to their persons. Here they are also separated from their companions and relations, with whom they had been brought on board. The next step is to shave off all the hair from their heads…, their hair being made into different figures, such as stars, half-moons, etc. which they generally do one to the other, having no razors, by the help of a broken bottle, and without soap”. Even without the proper equipment and in extremely poor living conditions, the black people still made it a priority to cut their hair and preserve their cultural aesthetic. This dedication conveys how important cultural practices and expressing themselves was to them. A quote from The Birth of American-American Culture: An Anthropological Perspective by Sidney Mintz and Richard Price, summed this up perfectly. It reads, “It is hard to imagine a more impressive example of irrepressible cultural vitality than this image of slaves decorating one another’s hair in the midst of one of the most dehumanizing experiences in all of history”. This goes to show the resilience and creativity of enslaved people that showed through even in the face of extreme oppression.

Another main topic in the lecture was ubiquitous cultural vitality that was practiced in everyday life for African Americans. An important artistic part of this culture was song and dance. An example of the artistic practices highlighted in the video was something called the “Ring Shout”. The Ring shout involves a group of people moving in a circular motion while singing and dancing to music being played. The participants would frequently be dressed in all white and “moved counterclockwise while shuffling their feet, clapping, singing, calling out, or praying aloud.”(FOMM 370) Africans who practiced the ring shout were able to uphold their cultural customs and proclaim their religious beliefs. Though Ring Shout proves to be a good example of a specific artistic cultural practice, zooming out, The significance of singing and dancing as a whole was extremely important to black people. It served as an outlet for expression and a release of suppressed feelings. Slaves could express their pleasure, sadness, hope, and anguish through song and dance in a therapeutic and liberating way. Additionally, it contributed to the development of a sense of camaraderie and solidarity among slaves, who frequently felt alone and alienated throughout their captivity. It also served as a form of resistance against their masters. Many of the songs and dances included cryptic undertones and secret meanings that alluded to the longing for independence and the optimism for a brighter future that provided them with the hope they needed to keep going. Slaves may speak with one another without their masters hearing them by singing and dancing together. Not to mention, song and dance allowed African Americans to teach, practice, and preserve cultural traditions for generations to come. A quote included in the lecture that describes how powerful black music was states, “Black music is not artistic creation for its own sake, rather it tells us about the thinking and feeling of the African People, and the kinds of mental adjustments they had to make in order to survive in an alien land. The work songs were a means of heightening energy, converting labor into dances and games. Providing emotional excitement in an otherwise unbearable situation. The emphasis was on free continuous creative energy as produced in song.”(James Cone). 

The last main topic from the lecture was the contrast between black aesthetics and white aesthetics. In the last few hundred years in America, beauty and art have been looked upon using the “white yardstick of civilization”(Bell Hooks). Essentially, what was thought of as beautiful or valuable art was determined by white people and toward other white people. The black aesthetic valued the beauty of imperfections, the roughness of the unpolished, and the authenticity of raw emotion, whereas the white aesthetic frequently favored formal beauty and idealized portrayals of reality. The white aesthetic tended to be more independent and secular in character, whereas the black aesthetic was frequently deeply linked to social and spiritual experiences. This gap between what both races valued was large and resulted in the dominant white majority completely disregarding black art as a form of art, just because it was different than what the whites were used to. According to Cornel West, “The authority of science, undergirded by modern philosophical discourse, promotes and encourages activities of observing, comparing, measuring, and ordering the physical characteristics of human bodies. Forms of rationality and science prohibited the legitimacy of black equality and beauty culture and intellectual capacity to think about black and white equally was deemed irrational, barbaric or mad”. Another similar quote by Bell Hooks from the lecture reads, “art in black communities intrinsically serves a political function. Whatever African Americans in music, dance, poetry, painting, was regarded as a testimony bearing witness challenging racist thinking which suggested that black folks are not fully human, were uncivilized, and that the measure of this was our collective failure to create great art”. These quotes provide an idea of how oppressed black art and the black aesthetic was in society. Despite extreme oppression in pretty much all facets of life, black people continued to practice their artistic culture or aesthetic and didn’t let the attitude of the masses stop them. Ultimately the difference between the black aesthetic and white aesthetic is significant in understanding the historical context of how white supremacy shaped the dominant cultural narratives and aesthetics in America, while also recognizing the resilience and creativity of black people in the face of systemic oppression.

In conclusion, the lecture on “Black Present and Presence – Ubiquitous Black Ideologies & Conceptions of Art” presented by Dr. Susie Bhaka and Dr. Corey Barnes sheds light on the historical and cultural significance of the Black Aesthetic Experience, the ubiquitous cultural vitality of everyday life for African Americans, and the contrast between black aesthetics and white aesthetics. By examining these topics, we can gain a better understanding of the resilience, creativity, and cultural vitality of black people, who were able to preserve their cultural traditions and express their feelings through art, despite facing systemic oppression which ultimately gives us a better opportunity to understand and empathize with African American history as a whole. It is essential to acknowledge the value of the black aesthetic as a unique and significant artistic expression that deserves recognition and respect in its own right. Furthermore, we must continue to learn about and appreciate the cultural contributions of black people, as we strive towards a more equitable and just society.