Cohesion is the action or fact of forming a united whole; it is togetherness, unity, and connection. Roy Peterson Clark said, “The big parts of a story should stick together, but the small parts need some stickum as well. When the big parts fit, we call that good feeling coherence; when sentences connect, we call it cohesion.” He was talking about strategies to think about when you are writing a book, though—not Harlem; he was explaining how you want all the key elements of the story like the exposition, rising action, climax, falling action, and resolution to all mesh together and make sense; if one moment you are writing in the exposition that Amy is a tree-hugger and that no matter what that will never change, then you write in the climax that she is using her newly acquired power to develop new building and destroy wild life; that makes no sense—the story doesn’t fit. Big parts have to fit together, but that doesn’t mean you should neglect the smaller details of the story like the character’s style or back story. If Amy is a tree-hugger, she should dress like a hippie or at least wear more earth colors than anything; she may come from a family of vegans who take annual camping trips, too. When everything comes together in perfect harmony and it all adds up, you have a cohesive story. David Levering Lewis doesn’t believe that the Harlem Renaissance was a cohesive movement; he believed it was a constructed and forced phenomenon. In other words, he doesn’t think that the big parts of the story fit together; he doesn’t think that any key elements mesh together.
I almost agreed, since it seemed like the Harlem Renaissance was just a period between World War I and the Great Depression where African-Americans piggy- backed off of Langston Hughes’ success; it didn’t seem like it was an organized movement like the women’s right movement or anything. But then in Lewis’ book there was a quote—or message—that appeared in The Crisis made by “Returning Soldiers” that simply said:
The faults of our country are our faults. Under similar circumstances, we would fight again. But by the God of heaven, we are cowards and jackasses if now that the war is over we do not marshal every ounce of our brain and brawn to fight a sterner, longer, more unbending battle against the forces of hell in our own land.
We return from fighting.
We return fighting.
Make way for democracy! We saved it in France, and by the Great Jehovah, we will save it in the United States of America, or know the reason why (15).
This proved that Lewis was wrong that this was a forced movement; no one forced black soldiers to return from war ready to tear apart the country that discriminated them yet called themselves a democracy. No one forced them to be ready to fight to be a part of the country they valiantly fought for, yet they were and their fellow African-Americans who remained at home were ready to fight for a place in this country as well; they proved as much on July 2nd, 1917 when a race riot erupted (Lewis 9). Sure the smaller parts of the story don’t all fit together, but the big parts do. The Harlem Renaissance cannot be written off as a movement that was constructed and forced. The Harlem Renaissance was a movement that spurred from war veterans and became so much more. So much more included being an era where blacks were finally accepted and recognized for their talents including: intellectual, artistic, literary, and musical capabilities. One intellect, who was also one of the people who fought in France, was William Edward Burghardt Du Bois. With the years of pioneering scholarship in history, sociology, and urban studies well behind him, Du Bois was nearing the end of his fiftieth year and was at the peak of his career as propagandist for his race—our race. Du Bois was a senior intellectual militant of his people, a symbol of brainy, complex, arrogant morality widely respected by the