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The smile and blade of history

April 10, 2010

‘It was a time when the Negro was in vogue. White patrons of the Harlem Renaissance wanted their artists and writers to know and feel the intuitions of the primitive. They didn’t want modernism. They wanted Black art to keep art and artists in their place. By the end of the 20’s, Negros were no longer in vogue. Patrons found other uses for their money. Sophisticated New Yorkers turned [away] and colored artists and writers began to go hungry. History: the smiler with the knife under the cloak.’

—Isaac Julien, Looking for Langston (1989)

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