Issues of Race

Much of the literature produced during the Harlem Renaissance addresses issues of race, either directly or indirectly, by focusing on subjects such as racism, interactions between people of different races, and the experiences within different aspects of African American heritage. In one paragraph, compare and contrast how these two works: “Incident” by Countee Cullen and “Sweat” by Zora Neale Hurston address issues of race. Support your ideas with at least two specific examples from each selection.

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In “Incident,” Countee Cullen addresses the issue of racism through the use of imagery and symbolism. The speaker in the poem is a young African American boy who is riding a train and is confronted with racism when a white woman refuses to sit next to him. The woman’s actions symbolize the segregation and discrimination that African Americans faced at the time. In contrast, “Sweat” by Zora Neale Hurston addresses issues of race through the portrayal characters and their experiences. The main character, Delia, is an African American washerwoman who is repeatedly mistreated by her abusive husband, Sykes. The story illustrates the difficulties and challenges faced by African Americans, particularly women, during this time period. Both “Incident” and “Sweat” explore the theme of racism and its effects on African Americans, but they do so through different narrative techniques and perspectives.

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