Authentic Blackness

The Folk in the New Negro Renaissance

Authentic Blackness

New Americanists

More about this series

Book Pages: 200 Illustrations: Published: July 1999

Author: J. Martin Favor

African American Studies and Black Diaspora, American Studies, Theory and Philosophy > Race and Indigeneity

What constitutes “blackness” in American culture? And who gets to define whether or not someone is truly African American? Is a struggling hip-hop artist more “authentic” than a conservative Supreme Court justice? In Authentic Blackness J. Martin Favor looks to the New Negro Movement—also known as the Harlem Renaissance—to explore early challenges to the idea that race is a static category.
Authentic Blackness looks at the place of the “folk”—those African Americans “furthest down,” in the words of Alain Locke—and how the representation of the folk and the black middle class both spurred the New Negro Movement and became one of its most serious points of contention. Drawing on vernacular theories of African American literature from such figures as Henry Louis Gates Jr. and Houston Baker as well as theorists Judith Butler and Stuart Hall, Favor looks closely at the work of four Harlem Renaissance fiction writers: James Weldon Johnson, Nella Larsen, George Schuyler, and Jean Toomer. Arguing that each of these writers had, at best, an ambiguous relationship to African American folk culture, Favor demonstrates how they each sought to redress the notion of a fixed black identity. Authentic Blackness illustrates how “race” has functioned as a type of performative discourse, a subjectivity that simultaneously builds and conceals its connections with such factors as class, gender, sexuality, and geography.


Authentic Blackness is an important contribution to African American literary study because it prompts consideration of how various discourses privilege, shroud, and [re]produce African American identity. . . . In Authentic Blackness, Favor profiles these tensions in brilliant relief.” — Adam Hotek , American Literature

“[A] provocative . . . enlightening, and thoroughly engaging book, and one that has much to add to current conversations about racial authenticity and cultural identity.” — John Ernest , South Atlantic Review

“[A]n important contribution not only to African American literary studies, but signals the forging of new paths in American Cultural Studies.” — Michéle Gates-Moresi , American Studies International

“[R]emarkably accessible. . .” — Leigh Anne Duck , Modernism/modernity

“[T]his study of four seminal novels of the Harlem Renaissance will interest students and scholars intrigued with the ways in which the concepts of ‘blackness’ and ‘race’ have been constructed, deconstructed, and reconstructed by the writers and critics.” — C. P. Hill , Choice

“Favor’s text is an important one, for, in addition to its careful scholarship, his style is accessible and inviting . . . . Authentic Blackness is certain to become an important part of the critical discourse on twentieth-century African-American literature.” — Crystal J. Lucky, Modern Fiction Studies

Authentic Blackness marks an advance on current work on the Harlem Renaissance. Favor’s examination of how ‘race’ as a critical concept was destabilized by Harlem Renaissance writers makes an important contribution to our thinking of the period.” — Theodore O. Mason, Kenyon College

“J. Martin Favor has done the field of African American literary and cultural studies a profound service. His readings of Harlem Renaissance texts challenge our assumptions about racial identity and the ways our assumptions have shaped how we read literature by Black writers.” — Herman Beavers, author of Wrestling Angels into Song: The Fictions of Ernest J. Gaines and James Alan McPherson


Availability: In stock
Price: $24.95

Open Access

Author/Editor Bios Back to Top

J. Martin Favor is Assistant Professor of English at Dartmouth College.

Table of Contents Back to Top
Acknowledgments vii

1 Discourses of Black Identity: The Elements of Authenticity 1

2 For a Mess of Pottage: James Weldon Johnson's Ex-Colored Man as (In)authentic Man 25

3 "Colored; Cold. Wrong somewhere.": Jean Toomer's Cane 53

4 A Clash of Birthrights: Nella Larsen, the Feminine, and African American Identity 81

5 Color, Culture, and the Nature of Race: George S. Schuyler's Black No More 111

6 The Possibilities of Multiplicity: Community, Tradition, and African American Subject Positions 137

Notes 153

Bibliography 171

Index 179
Sales/Territorial Rights: World

Rights and licensing
Additional InformationBack to Top
Paper ISBN: 978-0-8223-2345-7 / Cloth ISBN: 978-0-8223-2311-2
Publicity material