Harlem Gallery Characters

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Harlem Gallery Summary & Study Guide Description

Harlem Gallery Summary & Study Guide includes comprehensive information and analysis to help you understand the book. This study guide contains the following sections:

This detailed literature summary also contains Topics for Discussion and a Free Quiz on Harlem Gallery by Melvin B. Tolson.

The Curator is the main character of the Harlem Gallery in the poem "Harlem Gallery." He is the leader of the Gallery, who proudly displays the paintings of black artists on the wall. He also uses the Gallery as a place for the Harlem community to congregate and discuss poetry and art. Many times, he leads these discussions and he raises important points such as the who is the black man in society and what is art.

The Curator leads the other characters on a journey through the Gallery as they look and criticize the paintings. His job is not only of a guide, but also as someone who gives recognition to black artists. Without the Harlem Gallery, there would no recognition given to black painters, and without The Curator, the black man would not receive recognition in general.

The Curator is of mixed race. He is black, Jewish and Irish. He was once a professor of art, but not a good one. He feels his former job defines him, not the person he is today. He is what he once was. The Curator loves art and has a strong passion for it. As the main narrator of the Harlem Gallery, he shows the reader around the Gallery and acts as a "professor" to the reader, his student, teaching the student about art and black identity. In essence, his job is very important because he does the best thing possible: he provide the art of black artists and the freedom to enjoy it.

Hideho Heights is the poet laureate of Harlem. He comes across as loud, silly and foolish. He loves his jazz, his Satchmo (or Louis Armstrong), and even likens jazz to marijuana for the black man. The black people of Harlem worship and love him and his poetry. They gather at the Zulu Club to hear Hideho recite his poetry, to which he receives thunderous applause. Shockingly, out of the mouth of ridiculous Hideho, comes the wise words of a preacher.

Hideho is a wise man and preacher-like throughout the poem. At first, before the reader knows him, he comes across as silly and flamboyant. But he is wise in his words. He uses poetry and animal folklore to teach lessons to those around him. He inspires the black people in Harlem with his words — much like a modern-day black preacher.

Hideho is also a common figure in the clubs of Harlem. He doesn't just move through the Harlem Gallery. Instead, he spends most of his time reciting poetry in clubs, especially the Zulu Club. He is an orator of the people. Hideho's appearance in the Zulu Club is important because provides the reader with a visceral experience of what a Harlem Renaissance club was like, and a glimpse into the fast-paced world of poetry slam and jazz of that time period.

Doctor Obi Nkomo is The Curator's good friend. He is also black and likes to philosophize with The Curator. The Doctor's problem is he wants for material things. He cannot stop this want, but also doesn't see anything wrong with it. He's no worse than anyone else. Because of his want, the doctor is not easily impressed, especially by the art in his friend's Gallery.

He is critical of art and people. He criticizes the Black Bourgeoisie painting, despite the fact it hurts The Curator's feelings. He is a very vocal person and judgmental, and that poses a problem for him. For example, he tells The Curator not to drink cream because the white fat floats atop. He gives his friend a stern lecture. Yet, the Doctor drinks homogenized milk, and doesn't see anything wrong with his milk decision.

In the later part of the poem, the Doctor makes some wise statements about art, which gives him depth. He says life and art are linked. He gives a speech to the Market Place Gallery in Harlem, and tells his listeners to remember the artists who come before them. The Doctor also tells the animal folklore story of the python and the frog. He is no longer superficial or critical. He turns into a man who appreciates the art of the Harlem Gallery.

John Laugart is half-blind painter who paints the Black Bourgeoisie. The Curator selects it for the Harlem Gallery. John Laugart is a sad, lonely figure who dies talented, yet unloved. He is robbed and murdered. John Laugart finally receives recognition for Black Bourgeoisie after his death.

Mr. Guy Delaporte III is the black elite. He is the president of a company and lives on Sugar Hill, the elite section of Harlem in the Harlem Renaissance. He loves art, but doesn't understand it.

Mister Sparks writes the Harlem Vignettes. It is a sub-poem within the Harlem Gallery that tells little stories of its characters. Mister Sparks is the narrator in the Harlem Vignettes. He is a conductor with the Harlem Symphony Orchestra, but never receives praise for his work. He dies and finally receives praise for his poetry, the Harlem Vignettes, after his death.

The Mountain Climberappears in The Mountain Climber, p. 15

The Mountain Climber risks his life, despite warnings and weather, to climb the mountain.

The bartenderappears in An Ex-Judge at the Bar, pp. 19-20

The bartender judges a black customer for killing another black man in war. He serves as the judge.

The Poetappears in The Poet, pp. 28-29

The poet is humble and above praise and vanity. He write about the human soul and is the champion of the people.

Wu Shangappears in African China, pp. 125-128

Wu Shang is a Chinese man who lives in Harlem. He falls in love with a black woman named Dixie Dixon. They have a mixed race child and schoolkids taunt him by calling him African China.

Dixie Dixonappears in African China, pp. 125-128

Dixie Dixon is a gorgeous, Amazonian-like black woman who Wu Shang, a Chinese man, falls in love with and marries. They have a mixed race child, who is called African China by schoolchildren.

Abraham Lincolnappears in Abraham Lincoln of Rock Spring Farm, pp. 150-155

Abraham Lincoln is a baby born to Tom and Nancy. He has ax man hands and long legs. He is the pride of Tom and is destined for great things.

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