Call for Papers: Resilience During the Harlem Renaissance and Beyond

deadline for submissions: 
September 30, 2021
full name / name of organization: 
DeLisa D. Hawkes, The Langston Hughes Society
contact email: 

Resilience During the Harlem Renaissance and Beyond

In Langston Hughes’s centennial poem “Mother to Son” (1922), the motherly speaker reflects on some of the struggles that she has faced during her lifetime as an example for her son to reflect on as he faces battles. The poem’s final lines read: “Don’t you fall now—/ For I’se still goin’, honey,/ I’se still climbin’,/ And life for me ain’t been no crystal stair.” The movement in the poem suggests an upward trajectory where each step is only one part of a larger staircase or societal conflict in U.S. race relations that his life will indeed become a part of. No doubt, the first two decades of the twentieth century have shown that U.S. race relations are in a continually developing stage. However, the motherly speaker encourages her son to remain resilient, for how she pressed on despite the struggles she faced will undoubtedly influence how he chooses to press on for himself and his larger community.

The Langston Hughes Society welcomes proposals for its NeMLA board-sponsored panel examining resilience in the works of Hughes, other Harlem Renaissance era writers, including but not limited to Zora Neale Hurston, Anne Spencer, and Claude McKay, and contemporary writers inspired by the Harlem Renaissance, such as Esi Edugyuan and Kwame Dawes. Questions for consideration include:

  1. How might examining Harlem Renaissance era representations of resilience shift how we approach African American and Black diaspora literature more broadly?
  2. How do certain conventions like horror, humor, or satire influence depictions of resilience in African American and Black diaspora literature and film?
  3. What genres do writers of the Harlem Renaissance and beyond rely on to spread messages of resilience? Do some genres foster ethics of care better than others?

Please submit 300-word abstracts to the NeMLA convention website by Thursday, September 30, 2021.  If you have any questions, please feel free to email Dr. DeLisa D. Hawkes, Langston Hughes Society Vice President, at