“My “black bad, white good” (Belton) structure the

“My mama always says that all black people need therapy and in some respects she’s right.” (Belton 1) Prior to the Harlem Renaissance the imagery surrounding African Americans was very negative. The Jim Crow image, the beast from the jungles of Africa, the raggedy slave and the dirty runway are all reflective of the images African American artists of the Harlem Renaissance sought to change.

From the time an African American child is born in America they are growing up around a negative reinforcement of their racial identity. Everything is set up to reinforce the “black bad, white good” (Belton) structure the United States was built on. This philosophy began to extend to the way African Americans view themselves.

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Angela herself expressed a negative opinion about racial features as she describes the image of Mrs. Powell, “Her squarish head capped with a mass of unnaturally straight and unnaturally burnished hair possessed a kind of ugly beauty. Angela could not tell whether her features were good but blurred and blunted by the soft night of her skin or really ugly with an ugliness lost and plunged in that skin’s deep concealment”(Fauset 94) Jessie Fauset uses Angela’s inner thoughts to highlight a hidden self-hatred many African Americans held of themselves. It was reasons like this that made the Harlem Renaissance such an important experience.

It offered African Americans an opportunity to create a healthy self-image.


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