“Passing” for White
Passing, is the movement of a person who is legally or socially designated black into a white racial category or white society (Larson, p. viii). The idea of passing for white as a light-skinned African-American was a major social as well as political concern of the Harlem Renaissanc. Not only was passing common by people with these characteristics, but it often affected the way the lived their lives as members of society as they made a conscience effort to fit in the norms of society. In this essay, I will look at the historical context of the Harlem Renaissance as well as how it affected the themes of Passing by Nella Larsen.
The Harlem Renaissance was a period that saw a rise in African-American Literature and Art, and got its name from the Harlem district in New York. Everything from jazz music to the rural way of life of southern African-Americans influenced those who lived in the Harlem Renaissance. Writers, such as Langston Hughes, Countee Cullen, Zora Neal Hurston, James Weldon Johnson, and, of course, Nella Larsen took this new and exciting opportunity to write about African-American life of the time period. They sought to bring to attention all the ideas and issues, good and bad, that African-Americans faced during the Harlem Renaissance. There writing included topics of bigotry, segregation, passing for white, and many other conflicting issues that were occurring during the time period. Many of these writers were seeking the support of other non-colored people that had influence on the time period in hopes of making a greater impact with the ideas they presented.
Passing for white was something that, as I stated before, some light-skinned African-Americans were inclined to do as a means of improving not only their social and economical status but also their quality of life. By passing, these people sought a better life through job status and security, social status, and marriage in most cases. Particularly with...