TheNew Negro Inthe essay The “Trope of a New Negro and the Reconstruction of the Image of theBlack,” Henry Louis Gates, Jr., Black Americans wanted to re-present themselvesto the public in order to change the way the public perceived them and counterthe racial stereotypes.
Historical African American literature shows the manyways blacks set out to redefine who and what a black person was. AfricanAmerican intellectuals, as we have seen have sought to reconstruct the blackimage for a couple reasons: first to disprove racist stereotypes that precededthem and to instruct their own people on what they thought was the best way toadvance collectively and individually after they found themselves in newcircumstances. In 1895 freedom was the new circumstance. The New Negro was aquest for respectability. AlainLocke, a Harvard educated black intellectual, was the first person to coin theterm “New Negro” to reflect a new cultural identity, this identity was rootedin determination and racial consciousness. TheNew Negro is packed with strategies to get the message across to AfricanAmericans and White Americans. Booker T. Washington and others sought to crafta public image of the Negro for whites and for blacks.
The New Negro is in allways a testimony to black progress and perfectibility, as the introductionpostures: “This book has been rightly named A New Negro for a NewCentury. The negro of today is in every phase of life far advanced over thenegro of thirty years ago.” Gates explains that the new negro is ever changingin a most positive direction, “In the following pages the progressive life ofthe Afro-American people has been written in the light of achievements thatwill be surprising to people who are ignorant of the enlarging life of theseremarkable people.” TheNew Negro wanted to forget it’s slave past and move forward past the racialstereotypes. Gates uses Fannie BarrierWilliams’s essay to put context and help the reader better understand what thatmeans. Barriers essay “The Club Movement Among colored Women” relates with theteachings in a New Negro because she explains that the intentions of the NewNegro is to restructure the race’s image of itself.
“The consciousness of beingfully free has not yet come to the great mass of the colored women in thiscountry,” in part because “the emancipation of the mind and spirit of the racecould not be accomplished by legislation.” Atthe end of his article gates uses a visual essay to wrap everything up. I findit interesting that he ends his literary essay with photos of all of the stereotypeshe talked about. I think for me after reading his essay this was a shock to seethese images, it really made it real.
I think he included these to show thatthere is no way to forget about the past completely but to light a fire insidethe reader and inspire them to be the change and remain progressive in fightingto restructure the image of blacks.