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Black Protest Poetry

Polemics from the Harlem Renaissance and the Sixties

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Margaret Ann Reid

Black poets of the Harlem Renaissance (1920-1929) relied heavily upon traditional rhetorical devices, specifically irony and paradox. In contrast, their counterparts of the sixties adopted a more radical approach, employing instead street idiom and other modes of Black discourse. While the poets’ strategies of the two periods differ, one element remained constant – the theme of protest. It is this similarity in purpose that marks the poetry of the Harlem Renaissance as a precursor of the revolutionary poetry of the sixties.