All ETDs from UAB

Advisory Committee Chair

P Kieran Quinlan

Advisory Committee Members

Peter Bellis

Gale Temple

Document Type


Date of Award


Degree Name by School

Master of Arts (MA) College of Arts and Sciences


At the turn of the twentieth century, African American race leaders believed that literature and other creative works could strengthen the fight against the social, economic, and political oppression facing members of their race across the country. However, when younger writers began explicitly focusing their narratives and poems on the more taboo and less religious elements of African American life such as heavy drinking, sensual dancing at jazz and blues clubs, and unmarried sexual relationships, black religious leaders often expressed opposition to their creative work. This sometimes harsh disapproval only served to create a larger gap between the religious and literary communities, as authors continued writing about these unsavory aspects of black life and persisted in negatively portraying their religious characters, specifically, and organized religion, in general. This thesis explores several major Harlem Renaissance contributions including the work of Langston Hughes, James Weldon Johnson, Claude McKay, Nella Larsen, and Zora Neale Hurston, as well as the contemporary religious and critical reactions to their works. It also addresses the inconsistencies in how the black church viewed some of this work and which literary samples drew the most opposition at the time.



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