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The Harlem Dancer Summary & Analysis
by Claude McKay

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"The Harlem Dancer" is a sonnet by the Jamaican-American poet Claude McKay. The poem offers a tender portrait of a nightclub dancer, describing the contrast between her distracted inner thoughts and her sensual presence in the club. In doing so, the speaker highlights the tension between people's inner and outer selves, and also grants the dancer the dignity, empathy, and humanity that society would typically deny her. Though first published in 1917, the poem was reprinted in 1922 in McKay's Harlem Shadows and James Weldon Johnson's anthology The Book of American Negro Poetry. Both books were milestones of the Harlem Renaissance, a literary and artistic movement in which McKay was a central figure.

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