Thursday, November 16th, 2017...8:42 pmNoah Fusco

Needs More Groucho, or, uh, is it the other one? Barbara Foley’s Dissatisfaction with Marxism in the “Harlem Renaissance” (as those Pesky Capitalist Fascists like to call it)

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Barbara Foley succinctly draws out the problem with the title “Harlem Renaissance” for what she would call the New Negro movement with one word: “capital.”

In her response, she uses capital to both refer to the centralization of the diasporic black societal revolution in Harlem as well as its its underlying Marxist meaning. In capitalizing on that capital, thinkers of this movement effectively work to isolate glamorous but no less productive alternate sites of formulation from the central discourse surrounding the New Negro movement. Capital, in its reference to a major component of economics, also reminds us that economics was a major component of the New Negro movement, which along with politics she feels needs to be reinstated into the discourse.

Foley also seems to argue, although she’s not so direct about it, that there has been a de-historicizing of the New Negro movement that displaces the importance of its ideological routes and affiliations. Most tellingly is her argument that Langston Hughes, among others, gets sundered between his 1920s bluesiness and his 1930s communism, but that both components are important for understanding his entire career.

She also demonstrates her firm Marxist street by slightly suggesting that only Marxism can provide a world-encompassing ideological framework for understanding all of existence (her safety blanket being dialectics), rather than queerness.

Bonus Question: Do you feel ideological problems emerge from trying to accommodate traditional modernist studies with Harlem Renaissance studies?


  • I really appreciated the structure of this blog post, as it was fairly pointed and presented a clear overview of the ways in which Barbara Foley utilized the concept of capital in her argument. Before reading your post, I had not considered the economic and financial facets of the Harlem Renaissance, and it appears that Foley is arguing that viewing and analyzing this movement through an economic lens is necessary in order for one to possess a true understanding of the Harlem Renaissance. It seems that many of the figures that we worked with for this blog post are not supportive of the title “Harlem Renaissance,” but I wonder whether Foley’s suggestion that we substitute this with the “New Negro Movement” is valuable. Overall, great post!

  • I really enjoyed reading your post! I appreciate the fact that you chose to write this on responses that involved the economic influence on and outcome of the Harlem Renaissance, or as I should say the New Negro movement. Seeing this movement through a Marxist lens helped me to view it in a new way, thus to deepen what I understand to be the New Negro movement. Your description of Foley’s responses was written so eloquently as well. I feel that I understand Foley’s point of view quite well after reading this post.

  •   Professor Seiler
    November 21st, 2017 at 2:55 am

    Noah–great title, and great expansion, too, on what Foley means by “capital.” Foley’s work has long invested in revaluing political formations–in particular 1930s and 1940s leftism and Communism, and African American writers’ involvement in each/both. Also: did you detect the Jamesonian model of Marxist criticism at work in Foley’s response?

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