Jury Nullification and Its Effects on Black America

It is obvious that significant improvements have been made in the way that the criminal justice system deals with Blacks during the history of the United States. Blacks have not always been afforded a right to trial, not to mention a fair one. Additionally, for years, Blacks were unable to serve on juries, clearly affecting the way both Blacks and whites were tried. Much of this improvement has been achieved through various court decisions, and other improvements have been made through federal and state legislatures. Despite these facts, the development of the legal system with regard to race seems to have become stagnant.

Few in this country would argue with the fact that the United States criminal justice system possesses discrepancies which adversely affect Blacks in this country. Numerous studies and articles have been composed on the many facets in which discrimination, or at least disparity, is obvious. Even whites are forced to admit that statistics indicate that the Black community is disproportionately affected by the American legal system. Controversy arises when the issue of possible causes of, and also solutions to, these variations are discussed.

Although numerous articles and books have been published devising means y which to reduce variance within the system, the most recent, and probably most contentious, is that of Paul Butler, Associate Professor of Law, George Washington University Law School, and former Special Assistant United States Attorney in the District of Columbia. Butler’s thesis, published in an article in the Yale Law Journal, is that “for pragmatic and political reasons, the black community is better off when some nonviolent lawbreakers remain in the community rather than go to prison.

The decision as to what kind of conduct by African- Americans ought to be punished is better made by African-Americans themselves. 1 The means by which Butler proposes for Blacks to implement these decisions is termed jury nullification. By placing the race of the defendant above the facts of the case, and thus producing either an acquittal or a hung jury, Butler hopes that Blacks will be able to keep a large portion of Black males out of prison.

Although several commentators have voiced criticisms with the ideas of Professor Butler, most of these criticisms focus on what is best for the American legal system, what legal precedents dictate, or as is most often the case, on what is “right. ” It is, however, negligent to simply focus on these ssues when examining the proposal of Professor Butler. Instead criticism and analysis must be based upon what is best for the Black community in this country. From this perspective it becomes clear that although race-based jury nullification has many attractive features, it must be modified to be truly beneficial.

The first step in analyzing Butler’s conception of jury nullification is to examine problems which Butler claims cause a need for a solution. These problems are flaws in the criminal justice system, intrinsic or otherwise, which present themselves as disparities in treatment of whites and Blacks. In any policy discussion, formulation of a plausible and effective solution clearly must be based upon the nature of the problem. Butler lists many examples of racism in the criminal justice system, but many are simply specific cases meant to illustrate his point.

Although these cases are important, they are nearly impossible to discuss in a general examination of discrimination in the justice system because specific cases do not necessarily entail widespread discrimination. However, Butler does cite past and contemporary administration of the death penalty, disparities between punishments for white-collar crimes nd punishments for other crimes, more severe penalties for crack cocaine users than for powder cocaine users, and the high rate of incarceration of African- American men.

All arguments regarding Butler’s thesis must be framed within the context of these problems, if not directly addressing them. Although Butler lists it last, he does note that the problem of high incarceration rates among Black males is the one noted most frequently. This problem is one which is essential to the discussion of jury nullification, and should be explored specifically for a number of reasons. First, whatever the eason, the number of Black men in prison is frighteningly high.

One out of every twelve black males in their 20s is in prison or jail. Additionally, there are seven Black males in prison for every one white male. More than half of all black males are under the supervision of the justice system in some way. 4 These two factors indicate a very important trend. A high number of black males are in prison, and many more black males are in prison than white males. This would definitely lead a reasonable person to assume at least some measure of discrimination within the criminal justice system. Secondly, and perhaps more ignificantly, the high rate of incarceration, upon further examination, leads to conclusions about its causes which then shed light on the discussion of jury nullification.

The first step in examining this phenomenon is to examine what role racism plays in the high rate. There are several levels within the system at which discrimination could occur. The initial contact which anyone has with the justice system is with the police. The police are the institution which serve as a gateway to the legal system, and thus it is only logical to look here first. First, in 1984 almost 46% of those arrested for violent crimes were Black, while Blacks constitute only about 12% of the national population on the whole. Overall, Blacks are twice as likely to be arrested when compared to whites. 6 This data could be construed to mean simply that Blacks commit more crimes than whites. Although this may be true, “the argument that police behavior is undistorted by racial discrimination flatly contradicts most studies, which reveal what many police officers freely admit: that police use race as an independently significant, if not determinative, factor in deciding whom to follow, detain, search, or arrest. “7

Despite the fact that discrimination may exist among police, the arrest figures still do not account for the vast disparity in incarceration rates. So other aspects of the criminal justice system must be examined. Another level in which discrimination can be claimed is that of the prosecutor. Because prosecutors have such enormous discretion when deciding which charges to file, which penalties to seek, and which cases to prosecute, there are many instances in which a prosecutor’s racism can be turned into discrimination against a defendant.

Indeed, “statistical studies indicate that prosecutors are more ikely to pursue full prosecution, file more severe charges, and seek more stringent penalties in cases involving minority defendants than in cases involving nonminority defendants. “8 This discrimination becomes even more evident, and disturbing, when examining the death penalty. A study in Georgia found that in matched cases, prosecutors sought the death penalty in 70 percent of the cases in which a Black killed a white, and 15 percent of the cases in which a white killed a Black. Although these numbers cannot be extrapolated to indict the entire nation’s prosecutors, other figures do indicate vast disparity.

In McCleskey v. Kemp, the defendant introduced a comprehensive, multiple regression analysis of the death penalty, done by Professor David Baldus. The study controlled for 230 independent variables, and indicated that race is by far the most important factor in whether a defendant receives the death penalty. It also found that Black killers of white victims are far more likely than white killers of Black victims to receive the death penalty. 0

Although the Court upheld the death penalty, it only did so because of precedent which states that discrimination must be proved through demonstration of intent, and not just results. This disparity is reflected in the number of Black death row inmates. The NAACP Legal Defense fund reports that nearly 39 percent of the inmates on death row in the 35 states in which the death penalty is used. It also found that of all federal death row inmates, 67 percent are Black. 11 Despite the fact that these statistics are startling and important, they are insufficient to justify race-based jury nullification at face value.

First, “the studies of Dean Alfred Blumstein of Carnegie-Mellon and of Joan Petersilia of the RAND Corporation conclude that about 80 percent of the black verrepresentation in prison can be explained by differential involvement in crime and about 20 percent by subsequent racially discriminatory processes. “12 Twenty percent is definitely significant and does deserve action, but it is not as high of a number as some might speculate, and therefore might dictate a more moderate solution. This will be discussed further later.

Second, “the crime and delinquency rates of incarceration, and rates of arrest and of victimization of those who move away from these slums are indistinguishable from whites of the same social class. “13 This fact suggests that socioeconomic factors are very mportant in the existence of crime. Butler argues that the this fact is simply more impetus for the implementation of his plan. He asserts that discrimination and segregation deprive Blacks of adequate opportunity to improve their social and economic standing.

He describes a “radical critique,” by which he states he is persuaded, in which “the radical critic deduces that but for the (racist) environment, the African-American criminal would not be a criminal. “14 Certainly this is a compelling argument. It is not clear, however, exactly how economic inequalities cause crime. Logic would certainly support the idea that Blacks, aced with stark living conditions, would commit crime either to strike back at whites or to attain more wealth. There are several problems with this idea, however.

First, many crimes are unrelated, if not contrary, to acquisition of wealth. Not all murders are committed over material goods, and assuredly drug use in no way is helpful to the attainment of financial security. Second, to assume that crime is dictated by social or psychological purposes is to ignore that fact that in most cases commission of criminal acts is governed by the proximity, ease, and convenience of reward. “In short, crime is an ill- onceived mechanism for the redistribution of wealth or for the extraction of revenge on one’s oppressors, and no racial or ethnic group believes otherwise. 15

Once again, the merits of jury nullification in alleviating these problems will be discussed, as will other solutions, later. From the viewpoint of the Black community, it may not be exactly obvious whether discrimination in public policy and in the criminal justice system is reason enough to allow guilty criminals to go free. But even assuming that there is there is a significant reason to implement jury nullification, Butler’s ssertions with regard to the intentions of jury nullification must be examined.

Butler claims that it is important that Black males be released not only because often they are on trial as a result of discrimination, but also because they are too important to the community to lose. He states, “Black people have a community that needs building, and children who need rescuing, and as long as a person will not hurt anyone, the community needs him there to help. “16 He maintains that the Black community needs its young males too much to punish them. There is significant reason to believe this idea.

William Julius Wilson states, “black women, especially young black women, are facing a shrinking pool of “marriageable” (i. e. economically stable) men. “17 Much of Wilson’s book is dedicated to the discussion of the dissolution of the Black family and its effects on the Black community. It seems quite clear that Black males are important to Blacks on the whole, but Butler seems to underestimate the negative effect of crime upon the community in his attempt to prove discrimination. This is clear in his claim that longer punishments for possession of crack than for powdered cocaine are evidence of discrimination.

The issue is summarized quite well by Kate Stith: While it appears true that the enhanced penalties for crack cocaine more often fall upon black defendants, the legislature’s action might also have been viewed as a laudatory attempt to provide enhanced protection to those communities – largely black, according to the court’s own statistics – who are ravaged by abuse of this potent drug… [I]f dealers in crack cocaine have their liberty significantly restricted, this will afford greater liberties to the majority of citizens who are the potential victims of drug dealing and ssociated violent behaviors.

This is the logic of the criminal law. 18 Studies indicate that almost 97 percent of those charged with possession of crack were black, while 80 percent of those charged with possession of powdered cocaine were white. 19 Thus, it could be argued that differences in sentences indicate an attempt to help the Black community rather than hurt it. Butler presents several hypothetical cases, one of which involves a Black defendant arrested for possession of crack. Butler states that this case is easily decided, and that jury nullification is the clear answer.

He justifies this position by stating that since the crime was victimless, and since there exists such a disparity in sentencing procedures between crack and powdered cocaine, there is no question that the jury nullification is the preferable option. Butler seems to ignore the detrimental effects of drug use and distribution on the Black community. But the drug possession and distribution are not the only areas in which it is logical to protect innocent Blacks. “Among black males and females ages 15 to 44, the leading cause of death is homicide. 20 Studies also report that ost crimes committed against Blacks are committed by Blacks.

“In Chicago in the 1970s, for example, 98 percent of black homicides were committed by other blacks. “21 This phenomenon is only strengthened by the segregation which Butler reports. “In concentrating poverty, segregation acts simultaneously to concentrate anything that is correlated with poverty: crime, drug abuse, welfare dependency, single parenthood, and educational difficulties. 22 It is only logical that if Blacks are surrounded by Blacks, when Blacks commit crimes, they will victimize Blacks.

Although this segregation might be ascribed to whites, hat is no reason for Blacks to further worsen the situation by releasing criminals into the community. Another factor which Butler misunderstands is the effect of rehabilitation. He states that the idea of rehabilitation as a justification for punishment can be dealt with summarily. He states, “If rehabilitation were a meaningful option in American criminal justice, I would not endorse nullification in any case. 23

According to Michael Vitiello, much of the reason for the abandonment of rehabilitation as a plausible reason for imprisonment stems from the work of one man, Robert Martinson. Vitiello states that most of he analysis of rehabilitation is based upon the studies of Martinson, which originally stated that it would never be a plausible idea. However, Martinson later retracted his conclusions, though none of the work based on those conclusions was subsequently retracted. Vitiello goes on to conclude that rehabilitation can work and has worked, and thus abandonment is irrational.

He states that some improvements can be made, and the rehabilitation is an achievable goal. 24 Ironically, Butler refers to Vitiello’s article in his discussion of rehabilitation. He refers to Vitiello’s statements about the ejection of the rehabilitative model by those involved in the criminal justice system. However, this reference is taken out of context, as it is simply justification for increased attention and discussion of rehabilitation. The importance of this analysis is hard to overestimate.

If rehabilitation can be implemented effectively, sending Black males to prison would be the best possible option for Black jurors convinced of defendants’ guilt. Rehabilitation of the Black community could rest upon the rehabilitation of its young male criminals. Butler admits that rehabilitation is preferable to ullification in theory, but simply does not believe that rehabilitation is possible. It is unfair to judge jury nullification based simply on its own merits. This may sound ludicrous, but any plan must be judged in terms of its competition.

If no alternative exists to any given strategy, the only way in which the plan can be rejected is if a negative effect can be reasonably expected. Thus, if it can be determined that no alternative plan is superior, or even plausible, then jury nullification need only help one city, one neighborhood, or even one person, and have no visible negative effects, to merit implementation. Harvard Law Review proposed a number of solutions to the specific problems of unfounded arrests by the police, misuse of prosecutorial discretion, and jury misrepresentation.

Most of these reforms involve changes as to the admissibility of certain evidence in court. For instance, the article suggests disallowing the use of a criminal profile as a factor in proving probable cause. Also, it advises new tests to prove discrimination by prosecutors, which would allow for the introduction of statistics regarding prosecutorial practices. The other changes are simply more reform of court practices, such as reducing the umber of peremptory challenges which prosecutors can use in hopes of limiting the number of Black jurors removed from juries.

Butler’s argument with these solutions, recognized as being the most important proposals for criminal justice reform, and others like it, is that they rely on powers outside of the Black community. He would claim that although these solutions might have some good effects, it is naive of Blacks to assume that they can rely on the solutions to be implemented. Butler stated, “Jury nullification is power that black people have right now and not something Congress has to give them. 25 Jury nullification might not seem as appealing as the ideas proposed by Harvard Law Review, but Blacks can implement it themselves.

Although laws prohibit jurors from being instructed about jury nullification in criminal cases, Butler does provide a number of methods to implement his plan. Rap songs, black newspapers and magazines, ministers’ sermons, flyers, and other various Black cultural events are all arenas in which the idea could be made popular, according to Butler. He likens the plan to the famous Montgomery bus boycott, in which a grass-roots campaign had clear effects. 26 Despite its relative ease of implementation, jury nullification is still suspect in its potential for effectiveness.

First of all, although socioeconomics may not completely explain the high rate of Black incarceration, studies make it fairly clear that much of the problem is not a result of discrimination. This leads to the conclusion that maybe Butler’s goals should not be limited to criminal justice reform, but also other areas. Second, despite Butler’s claims as to the fairness of his plan, there would no doubt be a great deal of controversy, and white backlash would be difficult to avoid. It s even possible that the plan would backfire by causing prosecutors to almost completely reject Black jurors in cases with Black defendants.

It would be hard to argue with this practice since it is the prosecutors’ jobs to win cases, and if jury nullification gained much momentum, it would be doubtful if prosecutors would take the chance that Black jurors had not heard of the plan. There might also be a great deal of white nullification. In short, there would probably be many negative ramifications to the implementation of such a potentially unpopular plan. The question, then, is how can progress be made? One significant omission on Butler’s part is a set of goals or requests which would make Butler’s intentions clearly known.

The only goal which Butler discusses is the release of Black males into the community. He even neglects analysis of possible changes which he would hope to instigate through jury nullification. Inclusion of specific reforms which would be desired would have two positive effects. First, it would help to avoid white backlash. By demonstrating that jury nullification had specific purposes, Butler would deflect criticism that the plan is simply a racially selfish scheme to keep Blacks from receiving unishment. Explicit goals would also make it clear to the public that there are discriminatory practices which Butler wishes to end.

Second, only by explaining what jury nullification is meant to accomplish can the government be expected to reform the criminal justice system. This is especially true if the goals include public policy changes not directly related to the legal system, such as the elimination of discriminatory housing practices or augmentation of job training programs. Then, if jury nullification proves effective, and the government is forced to some concessions, Blacks will benefit much more than ust from the release of Black males.

Clearly, Blacks have much more to expect from public policy and the criminal justice system than they currently experience. Discrimination, to at least some extent, occurs at almost every level of the system. Although there is no way to be sure whether racism, socioeconomics, or some other mysterious factor is to blame for the high level of Black incarceration, clearly something ought to change. Jury nullification, despite some gaps in Butler’s explanation and justification, is one of the only methods by which Blacks can hope to affect change.

Even if Paul Butler accomplishes nothing else, he can reasonably expect to achieve one goal: raising awareness of race in criminal justice. As Butler states in the conclusion of his article, “Perhaps, when policy makers acknowledge that race matters in criminal justice, the criminal law can benefit from the successes and failures of race consciousness in other areas of the law… To get criminal justice past the middlepoint, I hope that the Essay will facilitate a dialogue among all Americans in which the significance of race will not be dismissed or feared, but addressed. “

Black women and their hair

Since the early 1900s, Black women have had a fascination with their hair. More explicitly, they have had a fascination with straightening their hair. The need to be accepted by the majority class has caused them to do so. Though the image of straight hair as being better than coarse hair still hasnt left the Black community, there has been a surge of non straight hairstyles since the nineteen sixties. Wearing more natural hairstyles, which ironically enough include weaves and hair extensions has been considered to be more empowered and more enlightened.

However, this image comes with a price, and though it appears the natural hairstyle movement has advanced Black women, it has actually set them back. The color of the ad is done in browns, earth tones. The signifier in this ad is the colorless sketch drawing of a woman that takes up one page of the two-page ad. She is a symbolic, versus an iconic sign, because the images that lead people to assume the picture is of a Black woman are learned, symbols such as thick lips and the way her hair looks, not straight lines, but dotted. The signified is a Black woman, with natural hair, presumably pretty.

The next part of the ad, and as equally important as the first, is on the second page. Large, in bold, is the word naturally. Beneath it are the words If citrus sheen fell on shimmering braids and soothing mist caressed short twists. How lovely would that be? It has the feel of a poem, and the different shades of brown add to the artistic feel of the page. The artistic feel is important, because it adds the idea of a woman with natural hair as being both bohemian and sophisticated. Beneath the poem is an introduction to the product.

It emphasizes the products natural ingredients, things that seem as though they would be better in a salad dressing than on ones hair. However, these ingredients are important. First, the emphasis the naturalness of the product in turn emphasizes the natural state of the projected audiences hair. Secondly, its use of Americanized products instead of typical African products (olive oil versus jojoba oil) separate this ad from the typical natural hair care product ads. This ad is geared towards a new type of Black woman, one who is more interested in a connection to spirituality and art than to Africa.

The actual value of this product is around four dollars and sixty-three cents, but the sign value is intelligence, connection to nature, spirituality, poetry and art. The model is drawn because a real life model would be perceived to be fake, air brushed, etc. The colorlessness of the drawing creates the scene of a universal Black woman. Also, the drawn picture doesnt get into the light/dark color complex. The light/dark color complex is another ideological problem in the Black community. Lighter Blacks (especially women) were perceived to be more attractive, more intelligent, and more acceptable to the White community.

Darker skinned Blacks were perceived to be the opposite. This was deposited upon the culture during the slave era. Hair texture also became an issue within the Black community, as lighter, straighter hair was perceived to be nicer, and coarse, thick hair was perceived to be bad, ugly. The afro movement in the 60s challenged this ideology. In the 60s, natural hair meaning coarse and thick, began to signify intelligence, Black power, and resistance to the majority culture, overall enlightenment. This image was reborn in the late 1990s.

Newer options for natural hairstyles and the increasing acceptance of dreadlocks reinitiated a type of anti chemically relaxed hair movement. Refusing to put chemicals in ones hair (chemicals referring to those used to straighten ones hair) meant refusing to cater to the slave mentality of light skinned, straight haired beauty. However, the connection between natural hair and soulful, enlightened, etc, only works if ones hair is naturally coarse. In an increasingly diverse Black community, many are born with naturally straight, or naturally curly hair.

However, if they leave their hair in their natural state, they are still considered people who cater to the slave mentality. The actual product takes a small role in the ad. The sketched model and the word naturally exist on the bottle, which is how the ad is connected to the product. Also, the product itself is another earthy shade, which helps enforce the all natural idea. Being an ad geared towards a Black audience, there are codes therein that the majority many not understand. These codes are braids, twists, sheen spray and natural beauty. A Black American female will know that braids and twists are types of natural hairstyles.

Sheen spray is also something known within the Black community. It was first connected to the natural hairstyles in the 1960s where it was referred to as afro sheen. Since then, sheen has often been connected with natural hairstyles. Also, there is a decided lack of the word dreadlock in this ad. Instead, twists are used. Dreadlocks and twists are the same thing. However, the term dreadlock has been connected to oppressive White rule. It is another cultural ideology that calling twists dreadlocks is falling into oppressive majority culture speech.

It is cultural myth that British people considered dreadlocks dreadful, therefore named them accordingly. Unlike many other natural hair-care product ads, this ad is specifically geared towards women. It isnt unisexual. On the bottle, shown in the ad, there is a thin woman gazing out into the distance, her body curved. This is a new invention, and a rather interesting one, as Bordo explains in her article, Hunger as Ideology. Arguable, a case could once be made for a contrast between White womens obsessive relations with food and a more accepting attitude towards womens appetites in African American communities.

But in the nineties, features on diet, exercise and body-image problems have grown increasing prominentreflecting the cultural reality that for most women today free and easy relations with food are at best a relic of the past. Earlier in this essay, I mentioned that the drawing was supposed to be of a woman, presumably pretty. I myself was drawn into the thin is beautiful ideology unknowingly, as I immediately connected thinness with beauty. Until extremely recently, curvy bodies were considered attractive in the Black community, as compared to the thin, sickly looking White women bodies.

Just as Wolf explains in her article The Beauty Myth, the farther women advance political and socially, the harsher the beauty myth is used against them. In this case, the punishment for rebelling against the majority culture by adapting a subversive hairstyle, the thinner you have to be in order to still be considered beautiful. Furthermore, thinness in the Black community is difficult to achieve. Typically, Black body structure, food and eating culture doesnt easily result in thinness. This is the price Black women pay for this new expression of self. The new face of Black feminine beauty comes with a price.

It alienates nearly half of those in the culture that dont fit the standard. While the hairstyle challenges the majority culture, the newfound search for thinness that comes with the hairstyles returns Black women to the confines of White beauty standards. The ideology that natural hairstyles bring enlightenment came from the Rastafarian tradition. However, what new ads and cultural myth discount is the religious dimension that the Rastafarians placed on their hair. Natural hair doesnt mean immediate spiritual or intellectual wisdom. What at first seems to be the advancement of Black women, shows the backwards regression of Black beauty.

Discrimination because of race can change a persons whole outlook on life

John is a white writer who spends six weeks as a Negro in the southern states. He later reports of his trials and hardships, he tells how he dealt with racism as both a white man and a black man. This book takes place in mostly the southern states. John travels from New Orleans, Louisiana, through Mississippi, and then into Alabama as a Negro. It started in October of 1959 and John returned home to Mansfield, Texas in December. For the next eight months John tells the papers, television stations, and radios of his experiences living as a Negro.

During those eight months he also has some threats towards his family, so they travel around staying at places they think will be safer. Mr. Griffin, as they called him in the South, wanted to know what it felt like to be discriminated by the color of your skin. He had a loving wife and 3 kids who he absolutely adored. As a very brave and curious man he headed into a scary world as a Negro hoping for the best. Sterling Williams was the shoe shining man. He was in his fifty and had a limp, which with he had to use a crutch.

He was very friendly and was a great help to John. . . . I stood in the darkness before the mirror, my hand on the light switch. I forced myself to flick it on. In the flood of light against white tile, the face and shoulders of a stranger a fierce, bald, very dark Negro-glared at me from the glass. He in no way resembled me. The transformation was total and shocking. I had expected to see myself disguised, but this was something else. I was imprisoned in the flesh of an utter stranger, an unsympathetic on with whom I felt no kinship.

All traces of John Griffin I had been were wiped from existence. . . . Finding out how it feels to be discriminated because of your race is a factor of both the plot and the characterization. The whole basis of the story was to figure out what effect discrimination has on a person. John then went through medical treatment to change himself into a Negro. After doing so he then walked the streets of Louisiana, spent nights in random hotels, and traveled at the back of the bus.

Just so he could feel the full effect of being a Negro. Characterization was also a big part. With out John wanting to do this nothing would have worked. He also didnt change his personality or even his name. Mr. Griffin had to be strong inside to deal with the harassment, heartache, and racism that he encountered. BY doing this project John not only got a better picture of how it was to be a Negro, but it also changed his outlook on life forever.

Social Justice – Measure for Measure, Animal Farm, American History X

Social justice is a topic known all to well in today’s society. Such issues as social heirarchial structure and unjust representatives of citizens of nations are issues in need of attention by those in power. Corruption, lies and greed by those in power however stand in the way of this form of justice from occurring, leaving many with little or no social status open to prejudice on race, religious and sexual grounds.

Outlined by William Shakespeare in Measure for Measure and George Orwell in Animal Farm is the ease in which power can corrupt.

A utopian society is created once a farmer is overthrown from his position in charge of all the animals on “Manor Farm”. A set of rules to govern the citizens of the revolutionary society was decided upon and these were to be the fairest and least controversial rules for the citizens of “Animal Farm” to abide by:

“The Commandments were written on the tarred wall in great white letters that could be read thirty yards away. They ran thus:

THE SEVEN COMMANDMENTS
1. Whatever goes upon two legs is an enemy
2. Whatever goes upon four legs, or has wings, is a freind
3. No animal shall wear clothes
4. No animal shall sleep in a bed
5. No animal shall drink alcohol
6. No animal shall kill any other animal
7. All animals are equal.

It was very neatly written, and except that “friend” was written “freind” and one of the “S’s” was the wrong way round, the spelling was correct all the way through. Snowball read it aloud for the benefit of the others. All the animals nodded in complete agreement, and the cleverer ones at once began to learn the Commandments by heart.”

As months passed on Animal Farm, the pigs, who thought they were the dominant force in the running of the animal farm, became more and more in control. Animal Farm, had now become the fairest it would ever be.

Word of what had happened to Manor Farm had spread across all of Ireland and England. Animals all over the country were following in their paths led by pigs Napoleon and Snowball. However, as this was happening, Animal Farm was heading to ruin as the pigs became selfish and ignorant. They would now consider themselves above the laws and commandments they had set, as they believed they had set the way for the new society. To a greater extent, leaders Snowball and Napoleon would control and decide the fate of the farm, setting rations, “In January food fell short. The corn ration was drastically reduced”, deciding hours on the Mill, and even who would live to see another day, as we saw in Chapter 7 when Snowball had been declared a traitor:

The three hens who had been the ringleaders in the attempted rebellion over the eggs now came forward and stated that Snowball had appeared to them in a dream and incited them to disobey Napoleon’s orders. They, too, were slaughtered. Then a goose came forward and confessed to having secreted six ears of corn during the last year’s harvest and eaten them in the night. Then a sheep confessed to having urinated in the drinking poolurged to do this, so she said, by Snowballand two other sheep confessed to having murdered an old ram, an especially devoted follower of Napoleon, by chasing him round and round a bonfire when he was suffering from a cough. They were all slain on the spot. And so the tale of confessions and executions went on, until there was a pile of corpses lying before Napoleon’s feet and the air was heavy with the smell of blood, which had been unknown there since the expulsion of Jones.”

The farm which had once been the source of inspiration with a democratic society was now a farm of death, destruction and communism.

This is the impact of social injustice on what was once a just community in a revolutionary society. When power corrupts as happened in Orwell’s ‘Animal Farm’, there is no telling where it will end or what damage will be caused. Such social injustice also occurred in William Shakespeare’s Measure for Measure, wherein a leader corrupted the legal system for his own benefit.

Vienna is being lead by Angelo, a name reflecting ‘bad angel’, and the city has been outraged due to his corrupt ways. The play is based around the court case of Claudio and the injustice delivered to him by the corrupt leader for a crime that some would consider being trivial.

Claudio had made love to his fiance prior to their marriage. At this time in Vienna, this was a crime punishable by death and Angelo was quick to pounce on this fact, sending Claudio to gaol and sentencing him to death. In studies of justice we have learnt that justice depends on the situation and this seems grossly unjust for a couple planning to be wed.

After Claudio is sentenced to death, Shakespeare creates an interesting turn of events showing just how corrupt leadership can be. Once Claudio’s sister, Isabella, a novice nun approaches Angelo to dispute his decision and begs for mercy, he tells her that in order to save her brother, she will have to give up her virginity to him:

Angelo:
“Admit no other way to save his life-
As I subscribe not that, nor any other,
But in the loss of question- that you, his sister,
Finding yourself desired of such a person,
Whose credit with the judge, or own great place,
Could fetch your brother from the manacles
Of the all-binding law, and that there were
No earthly mean to save him, but that either
You must lay down the treasures of your body
To this supposed, or else to let him suffer:
What would you do?”

Isabella:
“As much for my brother as myself:
That is, were I under the terms of death,
Th’impression of keen whips I’d wear as rubies,
And strip myself to death as to a bed
That longing have been sick for, ere I’d yield
My body up to shame.”

Angelo:
“Then your brother must die.”

Isabella:
“And ’twere the cheaper way:
Better it were a brother died at once,
Than a sister by redeeming him
Should die forever.”

This passage shows that the question of Angelo is not whether he is corrupt or not, but how corrupt he is. His hypocritical ways were characteristic of the leader in action. On one hand he was condemning Angelo and Juliet for their sin but on the other was encouraging the exact same sin with Isabella, the signs of true hypocrisy. As we can see in Shakespeare’s Measure for Measure, those in leadership roles often let their responsibilities fall short and the power they obtain influences their duties to their underlying citizens negatively and due to this an injustice may occur.

One’s mind may be distorted and filled with negative opinions when young by those we respect. Racism, prejudice against those of different religions or against those of a different sex, are just a few examples of ideas that are drilled into a young person’s mind by those influencing the youth, especially by one’s parents.

In the film American History X, the ease in which a youth’s mind can be directed is only too present. A respectable young man going by the name of Derek is a teen who holds no racist opinions until after admiring his class teacher’s (Dr. Bob Sweeney) work on black issues and works. His father bluntly tells Derek not to have any respect for those who are not white people of the Protestant faith, sparking the beginning of a racist developmen- producing a man who would kill a black man just for the sake of it. This is made clear when his father is murdered, but nobody knows by who and Derek boldly accuses every black man of being a suspect on national television: “Every problem is race related. Immigration, aids….”.

Not only was Derek now a racist, but his little brother, Danny would blindly follow in his brother’s footsteps. Looking up to Derek as a fatherly figure, Danny believes if Derek says it then it must be true. The Neo-Nazi movement expresses hatred for many cultures and believe in the ‘Ku Klux Klan’ catch cry of white power. Derek is sent to gaol after murdering two black men outside his house who are trying to steal his car. He learnt valuable lessons while carrying out his sentence because he was outnumbered by black men and the white men turned on him. “Yeah, I know your kind. Bad ass pecker wood with an attitude. Let me tell you something, you better watch your ass, cause in this joint, you’re the nigga, not me.”

However, while Derek had learnt these lessons, Danny had not. After writing a school report on Hitler’s Mein Kampf he is placed in a class by himself with Dr. Bob Sweeney and is told to research his older brother on the very day he is released from prison.It is an assignment designed to open Danny’s eyes.

Danny then finds out about his brother’s time in the prison system and Danny still respects Derek as a fatherly figure. He is told of the struggles his brother went through, how he was able to break the shackles of racism through the help of Dr. Sweeney and once again Danny follows in Derek’s footsteps and breaks free from the “Skinhead Tribe”, the nickname for the Neo-Nazi group founded by Derek.

On the morning Danny is to hand in his essay on his older brother to Dr. Sweeney after shedding his racist opinions, he is shot in the toilets by a black boy who he had previously aggravated and who was the brother of one of the black men that Derek had murdered.

Injustice is a strong word and in all three cases I have portrayed here all contain some sort of injustice. Whether it be Animal Farm and their corrupt society run by the communist pigs, Measure for Measure and the hypocritical leader or American History X and the Neo-Nazi society that one was able to associate themselves with, all these are able to relate back to each other in that there was an injustice caused by one to disadvantage the rest of their society.

Like Water for Chocolate and Master Harold: Oppression

In the two novels, Master Harold…and the boys, and Like Water for Chocolate, there are many symbolic similarities. In both books there are acts where individuals strongly oppressed, or discriminated against. Although the individuals are being oppressed for different reasons their emotions are shattered deeply. In Athol Fugard’s book Master Harold and the boys, an older man is discriminated against by a younger child only because the older man is black and the child is white.

In Laura Esquivel’s book Like water for chocolate, a girl by the name of “Tita” is oppressed by her own mother because of the soul reason of being the youngest child, therefore lying in her destiny to serve her mother till death, and being unable to decide her own destiny. However in both cases there are signs of rebellion, and protestation, even though both novels do not end the same end the same, both Sam and Tita get their point across.

Hally is a young white boy living in Africa, it is safe to say that he was raised by a black man by the name of Sam. Now Hally is starting to grow up and he is noticing things which he did not notice when he was younger. He realized that where he lives white people have certain rights over black people. Hally owns a cafe and he has got two black men working for him, one of which is Sam.

Hally walks in one morning and finds Willie and Sam dancing, preparing for a dance contest. “Hally- Think you stand a chance. Act your bloody age! (Hurls the rag at Willie) Cut out the nonsense now and get on with your work. And you too, Sam. Sop fooling around ” (Athol Fugard, Master Harold and the boys 18). Hally criticizes Sam by asking him sarcastically if he really thinks that he is good enough to win a dancing contest. Hally screams at Willie and Sam for making a mistake, this is ironic because Willie and Sam are in their forties while Hally is not even a teenager yet. Hally has power over Sam and Willie because of their difference in skin color.

Tita falls deeply in love with a man by the name of Pedro. Pedro asks Tita to get married, she would love to marry Pedro but she knows that her destiny is to take care of her mother till death. Tita will confront her mother and ask her permission to marry the man he loves. “If he intends to ask for your hand, tell him not to bother. He’ll be wasting his time and mine too. You know perfectly well that being the youngest daughter means you have to take care of me until the day I die” (Laura Esquivel, Like Water for chocolate 10). Tita loves Pedro dearly and would love to marry him, but her mother refuses to grant her permission because she is the youngest daughter and her task in life being to take care of her mother till death.

Sam is like a father figure to Hally but yet he doesn’t respect him, because of the color of his skin. “Hally- Don’t turn your back on me! I haven’t finished talking (He grabs Sam by the arm and tries to make him turn around. Sam reacts with a flash of anger” (54). Hally does not respect Sam, he not only orders him around but becomes violent when Sam does not listen to him. He treats Sam like a dog.

Mama Elena refuses to let her youngest daughter get married, to make the situation worse she Pedro and his dad show up at the ranch to ask permission from mama Elena to get married to Tita. Mama Elena refuses to approve on the marriage of her youngest daughter. “But if you really want Pedro to get married, allow me to suggest my daughter Rosaura, who’s just two years older than Tits. She is one hundred percent available, and ready for marriage” (13). Not only does mama Elena disapprove the marriage of Pedro and Tita but she offers Rosaura, which is an older daughter.

Hally is not grateful for what Sam has done for him in life. He understands that Sam cannot do anything to him, because he is white and Sam is black. Hally therefor Hally takes advantage of this, by degrading Sam whenever he can. “Hally- (quietly) Sam.. (Sam stops and looks expectantly at the boy. Hally spits in his face. A long and heartfelt groan from Willie. For a few seconds Sam doesn’t move)” (56). The worse act of discrimination one person can possibly do to another, is spitting in one’s face. This is extremely degrading.

Mama Elena sets up a marriage between the man that Tita loves and her sister Roraura. Tita is extremely depressed. “I won’t stand for disobedience, Mama Elena told her, nor am I going to allow you to ruin your sister’s wedding, with your acting like a victim. You’re in charge of all the preparations starting now, and don’t ever let me catch you with a single tear or even a long face, do you hear?” (27). Not only does mama Elena approve the marriage between Rosaura and Pedro, but she also holds Tita responsible for the preparations of the marriage of her sister.

Hally- Think you stand a chance” (Athol Fugard, Master Harold and the boys 9). Sam shows sign of rebellion against Hally. He is tired of being picked on and spoken down to just because of the color of his skin. “Hally-(Pause as Hally looks for something to say) To begin with, why don’t you also start calling me Master Harold, like Willie” (54). Sam proves appoint to Hally and Hally does not know how to reply so he relies on the fact that he is on a higher rank and asks Sam to call him Master Harold, instead if Hally.

This proves the power trip which Hally is going through. Sam is an old friend as well as a father figure, and know Sam has got to put the word “Master” in front of his name, to demonstrate to himself, Hally, and everyone else how Hally is at a higher level than Sam. “Sam- (Quietly and very carefully) If you make me say it once, I’ll never call you anything else again”(54). This is the only sign of rebellion that Sam shows. He lets Hally know that he is against it, and threatens to not call him anything else. At this point Sam realizes that Hally has grown up and changed.

Tita rebels against the ghost of mama Elena. The Ghost shows up to tell Tita that what she is doing is wrong. “See what you’ve done now? You and Pedro are Shameless. If you don’t want blood to flow in this house, go where you can’t do any harm to anybody, before it’s too late. The one who should be going is you. I’m tired of your tormenting me. Leave me in peace once and for all. Once and for all, leave me alone; I won’t put up with you! I’ve always hated you! Tita had said the magic words that would make Mama Elena disappear forever”(199). (199). After all this time Tita finally stands up against her mother, and puts her in her place. She chooses to fight back instead of just remaining quiet and obeying her mom’s orders.

Throughout the novels Like Water for Chocolate, and Mater Harold…and the boys, Tita and Sam experience discrimination. The difference between them were that after Sam protested, he was still treated the same, were as when Tita rebelled, she was set free. The ad thing about all this is that, Sam’s example is what happens in the real world. Maybe people can learn from these novels and stop discriminating people because they were born in class were they are expected to do perform only certain roles in society, or obey certain people. Also, if you’ve ever wondered if ovulation cramps are normal, the answer is yes, ovulation cramps are normal , and they usually occur to one in five women. Learn how women’s ovulation works and calculate your most fertile days with this excellent online tool available for free. We hope this tool will be very useful and provide the information that you were looking for.

Black Like Me by John Howard Griffin: Short Summary

Black Like Me by John Howard Griffin is a Multicultural story set in the south around the late 1950’s in first person point of view about John Griffin in 1959 in the deep south of the east coast, who is a novelist that decides to get his skin temporarily darkened medically to black. What Griffin hopes to achieve is enough information about the relationships between blacks and whites to write a book about it.The overall main obstacle is society, and the racial divide in the south with the whites.

John begins his journey in New Orleans where he gets his first taste of what it is like to be black. He meets a shoeshiner named Sterling Williams who gives Griffin friendship, and the opportunity to be incorporated in the African American society. While in New Orleans, Griffin discussed race issues with other African Americans. John was harassed by some white supremacists, while with Negroes, was treated with courtesies, even by strangers. When Griffin gets news that a white jury rejected a case of a black lynching, Griffin decides to go to the heart of the deep south, Mississippi to check it out.

Even with the risk of his life, Griffin decides to take a bus to Hattiesburg into the deep south to check out the lynching case. At the bus station, Griffin acquired hate stares from many whites on the benches waiting for their buses. Griffin boarded the bus, and during the trip he conversed with a man named Christophe, and when the white passengers got off the bus during the rest stop, the bus driver prevented the Negro passengers from departing. The Negroes were about to urinate all over the bus, but they decided it would just be another thing for the whites to hold against blacks. They arrived in Hattiesburg and John took a cab to a hotel to rest.

In the hotel, Griffin tried to write a letter to his family, but there were too many things blocking his mind. Afterwards, Griffin called P.D. East, a white friend who writes in a black newspaper in Mobile and visited his family for a while. Continuing his trip to Montgomery, he covered a long distance with the help from passing white drivers (some wereperverted) who gave him rides during the night time. When Griffin was kicked off the car, he was left a far distance from everything. He reached a small convince store on the road, in which the owners would not let him in until he begged them. As he walked on, a young black male offered him a ride and a place to sleep in his house with his wife and six children. Later that evening, Griffin had a reoccurring nightmare about white men and women, with their faces of heartlessness staring at him.

As Griffin was about to leave, he tried to give money to the family for his gratitude, but they would no accept it, so he just left the money there. Griffin then hitchhiked to a small bus station and bought a ticket to Montgomery. When he got to Montgomery, he called his wife and children and then changed back to white. Griffin also witnessed a skirmish on the bus when 2 blacks would not move into 1 seat, so a white women could sit down. A large white man was about to hurt someone, but the white women told him to stop. Griffin had enough of this and changed back to white in the station restroom.

Afterwards, he called the Sepia ( A News Paper ) editors and made an appointment for a story in New Orleans with a photographer. After the story was done, he flew to Mansfield as a white man to be in an editorial conference. Then Griffin flew to Hollywood for a TV show, New York for an interview in Time magazine and many other places for stories. Griffin’s mother started to get hate calls from some of the people in town, and the Griffins got police surveillance on their house just in case.

When Griffin was kicked off the car, he was left a far distance from everything. He reached a small convince store on the road, in which the owners would not let him in until he begged them. As he walked on, a young black male offered him a ride and a place to sleep in his house with his wife and six children. Later that evening, Griffin had a reoccurring nightmare about white men and women, with their faces of heartlessness staring at him. As Griffin was about to leave, he tried to give money to the family for his gratitude, but they would no accept it, so he just left the money there.

Griffin then hitchhiked to a small bus station and bought a ticket to Montgomery. When he got to Montgomery, he called his wife and children and then changed back to white. Griffin also witnessed a skirmish on the bus when 2 blacks would not move into 1 seat, so a white women could sit down. A large white man was about to hurt someone, but the white women told him to stop. Griffin had enough of this and changed back to white in the station restroom.

Afterwards, he called the Sepia ( A News Paper ) editors and made an appointment for a story in New Orleans with a photographer. After the story was done, he flew to Mansfield as a white man to be in an editorial conference. Then Griffin flew to Hollywood for a TV show, New York for an interview in Time magazine and many other places for stories. Griffin’s mother started to get hate calls from some of the people in town, and the Griffins got police surveillance on their house just in case.

Black Like Me by John Howard Griffin: Critical Review

What is the value of skin color? In the biological point of view, it is worth nothing. In the social point of view, it represents community standings, dignity, confidence or something people have never imagined. In the story Black Like Me, by John Howard Griffin, a white Southern reporter, who is the author and the main character, experienced an unforgettable journey in the Deep South. Mr. Griffin has a heart, which is filled with curiosity; he therefore undertook a significant project.

He took several medical treatments to change his skin pigments from white to black in order to write a report. To create a successful project, Griffin had to leave his wife to be a temporary African American. Being an African American brought him many unfair encounters. However, after he changed back to a Caucasian, the attitude of everyone had immediately turned, and they treated him well. Mr. Griffin felt bad, and he told everyone about his experiences by writing books and attending press interviews. Throughout these hard times, one can read this book and find out the characteristics of the author, how he saw the light bulb, and the truth that he wanted people to understand.

Mr. Griffin was a middle age white man who lived with his wife and children. He was not oriented to his family. He decided to pass his own society to the black society. Although this decision might help most of the African Americans, he had to sacrifice his gathering time with his family. “She offered, as her part of the project, her willingness to lead, with our three children, the unsatisfactory family life of a household deprived of husband and father” (Griffin 9).

Leaving Mrs. Griffin and his children would deprive them of the care they needed. Even though he was not oriented to his family, he was full of courage. He was willing to discuss topics that people hesitated to talk about, trying new ideas that people were afraid to do. After turning back to his own skin color, he attended most media conferences and also wrote books about what he had gone through.

During those interviews, Griffin was very considerate. He requested Wallace, a reporter, to report carefully so that he would not hurt his African American friends. “Please… Don’t mention those names on the air. I’d be afraid their lives would be endangered, and they were my friends” (Griffin 149). In addition, he was a man who never gave up. He insisted on remaining among the black people despite how he was looked down upon by the whites.

Griffin was very civilized. He would not use violence to solve the problem, even if he were treated badly by the whites. He gained success after conquering over all of the difficulties, and his persistence should be taken as an example by the people of today.

During adverse circumstances, Mr. Griffin saw the reality of the cruel world. On his way to Mississippi, he rode on a bus, and there was a ten-minute break. He asked the driver whether he could go to the restroom or not. The driver forbade him and commanded him to go back to his seat. Then, Griffin tries to argue with him. “No sir, but the others — you mean I can’t go to the”(Griffin 63)— He did not have a chance to argue, because the driver kept on interrupting him.

From this incident Griffin realized that the blacks always did not have a chance to protest. In addition, after he turned back to a white, in the same place the same people treated him totally different surprisingly! He was so shocked when everyone surrounded him with smiles and courtesy because he forgot that he was not a black. “I was the same man who could not possibly have bought his way into this room a week ago” (Griffin 122). People should not judge a man by only his or her skin color. Although they have different colors, it does not represent that they have a bad heart.

The author wanted people to understand that there were many unfair cases in the world, but everyone has to be brave to face it. He once read a case from the newspaper. In Mississippi, there was a white man who killed a black man, but he was released. In fact, besides the Deep South, there were many similar cases. Racism is getting more serious in this world. People should care about each other regardless of their nationality, then the universe will become more harmonious. Moreover, people should learn from Griffin’s bravery. He was willing to tell everyone what he experienced and how white people do wrong. Everyone should always strive for the rights, which they deserve.

Black Like Me was a very touching, adventurous, enlightened, famous book. I have never been discriminated by someone. However, my friend has experienced this pitiful fate. Being discriminated by someone is not hard to bear with. Furthermore, I believe that this is a very persuasive book for recommending to friends. In Mr. Griffin’s report, readers can clearly see what was happening to the African Americans in those days, how much effort they have to put in order to survive in that cruel world. After reading this book, one might change to a better point of view. Finally, one will realize how brave the author was, how he found the truth and the fact that he wanted everyone to know.

Black Like Me: Racism Is A Foolism Misunderstandin

All men are created equal… or are they? John Griffin’s “Black Like Me” shows how racism is nothing more then the foolish misunderstanding of man. White’s current superiority hangs in the balance as Blacks become tired of being the minority, in the late 1950’s. Even though this struggle isn’t as dreadful as it was then, it still exists. The certainty of racism can’t be ignored but it will soon disappear as generations mix. Racial discrepancies challenge the unity of human civilization.

John Griffin had a biting curiosity which he could no longer stand. What was life truly like, for a black man in the deep south? He sought the real answer to this by darkening his skin with extreme amounts of medication. A new skin color determines everything and John is now thrown into a new world that he was in no way prepared for. He was no longer John, an average but respected white novelist, he was a black man and that is all that mattered. Simple pleasers like a drink of water or the use of a restroom become near impossible.

John, at first was puzzled by this, but soon realized that it was not his personality, his age, but his blackness that made him a disgrace in the eyes of an average white person. If he were white, a white store owner would have not hesitated in the slightest to allow such privileges. How could these people be so blind as to not see that a black person breathes the same air, eats the same food, and has the same internal functions as themselves? This misunderstanding stares them in the face and they can’t see it. Their selfishness and fear is completely unnecessary but it remains because the whites have never been exposed to any other way of life. This is why the whites can not allow such common privileges to Mr. Griffin or any other black person. To treat a black as an equal was absolutely unheard of.

Fatigued from rejection and many actions which would be declared unconstitutional, the blacks must do something so their future generations do not suffer the same. This desire for action only stirs a greater terror within the (racist) white community. People like, Martin Luther King Jr. begin to surface. He and many others aspire to show the blacks that they are equal human beings. Its strange to think that most blacks thought a white was better just because that is what they were brought up to believe.

This new realization completely jeopardizes the supremacy of the white community. The book gives many examples of this fear/hatred such as, “The hate stare”, the tone of peoples voices, and the over all rejection. Who could have thought that a black person could have the same job opportunities and the same living standards? For those racist whites who have a pathetic pride in there incomparable skin color and fear of change is why groups like the Ku Klux Klan exist. It is comforting to know that this despicable attitude is no longer holding the majority.

Yes, certain racial beliefs were awful in the 50’s and 60’s but its not over yet, some still exist today. People who still feel they are fighting the Civil War, also believe in the segregation of the black community. Hate groups such as the KKK and Neo Nazis are around but don’t expose themselves publicly as they had in the past for obvious reasons. Today racism isn’t about little things that white people take for granted, such as drinking water or a nice place to stay for the night, its more about fair trial and equal job or education opportunities. The hard fact of our diverse country hinders most racial discrepancies. Most people anymore can no longer be called just black or just white but a mix of the two. If a person were to make a racist comment whether white or black, they will most likely be bashing their own ethnic origin. This will be even grater as generations continue. Racism won’t disappear all together but can be diminished by the brotherhood of man.

John Griffin took a chance and discovered something outrageous which he never expected. The real life for those in the deep south was concealed under a complete misunderstanding of each others feelings. Due to the unfair treatment to the blacks things begin to change. Now with changing generations and a greater diversity among people, things have changed and will continue to do so. The misconception of one race being any better then another perhaps, is the only thing that separates us from world peace.

Black Like Me: A Cultural Book Report

John Howard Griffin was a journalist and a professional on race issues. After publication, he became a leading advocate in the Civil Rights Movement and did much to promote awareness of the racial situation sand pass legislature. He was middle aged and living in Mansfield, Texas at the time of publication in 1960. His desire to know if Southern whites were racist against the Negro population of the Deep South, or if they really judged people based on the individual’s personality as they said. Because of this he felt that they had encouraged him to cross the color line and write Black Like Me.

Plot:

Black Like Me is the story of a man named John Howard Griffin, who underwent a series of medical treatments to change his skin color temporarily to black; a transformation that was complete when John Howard Griffin shaved off his hair, and looking in the mirror, saw a bald, middle-aged black man. The reason he does this is for an experiment to see how racism was in the Deep South from personal experience. From November 6th to December 14th in the early 60’s, he hitchhiked, walked, and rode through Mississippi, Alabama, Louisiana, and Georgia. After three weeks in the Deep South as a black man John Howard Griffin produced a journal covering his change into the black race, his travels and experiences in the South, the shift back into white society, and the reaction of those he knew prior his experience. The book was published and released. The reaction on the society differed in great ammounts.

Characterization:

John Howard Griffin is the main character in the story. Throughout the story, this person displayed many qualities. He showed determination because he was bound and determined to become a black man so he could expose the truth about the Deep South and how racist they were. He also showed courage, for being able to pull through and do the things he did, such as become a whole new person of another race and going into dangerous territory where he knew he wasn’t really welcomed. He also displayed a sense of dignity, because after he was done with this experiment, he was threatened several times and even burned in effigy in his hometown, but he still maintained his ground as long as he could. And last, but not least, he showed us a sense of hope, because no matter what, even in the darkest times, he would still keep at least a small bit of hope in him.

Cultural Insights:

The things that I’ve learned about white people and black people is that things aren’t always what they seem to be. A white person could be the nicest person to you at first if you are white, but the next they could hate you for being black if you are a black person. But not every white person is like this.

Universal Insight:

In Montgomery, Alabama, Griffin decided it was time for him to reenter white society, but he also wanted to gain information of the area as a black man. So, he found the technique of covering an area as a black and then returning the following day as a white. What he found was, as a black he would receive the “hate stare” from whites and be treated with every courtesy by the black community. As a white, it would be the exact opposite, he would get the “hate stare” from blacks and be treated wonderfully by the same people who despised him the previous day.

The only thing altered was his appearance. He dyed his skin a very dark brown and shaved his head, his clothing, speech patterns, and references had not changed and every question was answered truthfully. If people did judge others by their qualities and qualifications, his time in the Deep South should have been fairly uneventful. Instead, there were daily hunts to find rest- room facilities, restaurants, stores, and various other ‘conveniences’ that he took advantage of before he crossed the color line. Even though he was the same exact person, people treated him differently.Literary

Analysis:

To covey his message against racism, John Howard Griffin uses theme as one literary concept. He shows us that even though he was the same exact person as he was when he was white even when he changed his skin color, people treated him in different ways just because of his skin color.

Another way the author conveys his message against racism is that he uses mood as another literary concept. He puts the reader in a mood of disgust, not against the book, but against the people in the book and the racism that takes place in the book.

Historic Reference:

November 14, the day John Howard Griffin decided to leave to conduct his experiment, was the day after the Mississippi jury refused to indict or consider the evidence in the Mack Parker kidnap-lynch murder case. Because of this case, the tension between black and white became stronger, which led to making John Howard Griffin’s travels more difficult, being a black man.

This book relates to American history because it takes the reader into the Deep South before the Civil Rights Movements took hold and shows what it was like to be black in the early 1960’s.

Black Like Me: Critical Review

The black man in the Deep South of America was greatly despised during the 1950s. The world that the Negroes lived in was not the same as whites in their society. In this book, John Howard Griffin Sacrifices his life as a middle-class white man and becomes a dirt poor Negro, trying to survive in the South. He simply did all of this in order to bring out the truth about what it is really and truly like to be a Negro in the South during the 1950s.

John Howard Griffin is a white journalist with a wife and three children. He began his project of being a Negro, while he was reading a chart about suicide rates. This chart displayed that the Southern Negro man had a rapidly increasing rate of suicide, because they could not see a reason to go on as the second class citizens that they had become due to their skin color. The whites thought that the Negroes had it made since they had given them so much during reconstruction. Griffin realized that the only way to really see the truth about what the Negroes had to endure from day to day was to become a Negro himself.

While Griffin was expecting prejudices against himself as a Negro, he went into his project with an open mind trying to discover the truth. He took note of all the prejudices of whites against and took in consideration any acts of kindness. Therefore Griffins journal was straightforward and unbiased.

Griffins main goal in writing this journal was to break the gap between blacks and whites. He was not trying to totally offend whites, but aware them of their injustices towards the Negroes. The fact that he wrote his whole adventure as a journal clearly shows his intentions. He went into the world of the second class Negro, wrote a straight out account of every event that happened by writing a journal. Then the reader saw what his experience was like and believed it more so since it was in a journal setup instead of a story setup.

The entire approach of Griffins research was ingenious, very creative, and even a bit daring. Not many people would like to experience that drastic change of lifestyle. However it was a very efficient way of discovering precisely what it was like to be a black man in the 1950s. There really was not any other way for Griffin to have researched his project and get more accurate results.

John Howard Griffin mentioned throughout his journal some social and economical problems that the Negro in the South was facing at that time. He had a critical concern about the Job opportunities of Negroes. He noticed that the economic gap between whites and blacks was enormous. It was very rare for a black man to find a decent job during this era. A black man with exceptional intelligence and aptitude for a job would lose it to a white man even if the white man incompetent and half as qualified. These are the social problems Griffin was troubled by.

The black mans economic situation also left a lot to be desired. The Negroes go out seeking employment with constantly shutting in their faces. They come home, discouraged and find a low paying job that barely pays off rent. The white people call them lazy. Whites wonder why there is so much crime in the black neighborhoods they do not realize what some of them deal with everyday. Blacks could not be expected to keep up with white society when they only got about five percent of the opportunities and options that whites had.

Through this book, John Howard Griffin has successfully portrayed a black man in the South as honestly as he could. Griffin initially set out to see if his hypothesis was correct. He also wanted to dig as deep as he could for answers. His compassionate spirit and big heart could not rest until he saw with his own eyes what he hoped was not true. The trials and tribulations he experienced were trying and sometimes seemed unbearable. It was atrocious some of the monstrous ways that normally polite people would act based simply on his skin color. Though these all occurred to Griffin, he took it completely in stride.
The point that Griffin is trying to make does not need to be argued. The evidence is their, plain as day. No one could read the book and not be affected somehow. There are no questions that you could ask to get around the truth of the matter. All of the proof of prejudice is based on real life occurrences.

Ok now I am to tell you what I think of this book, Black Like Me. The main reason I chose the subject of racism is mainly because my roommate had suggested the topic when I asked what I should read. He is taking an African Culture Class and mentioned to me how easy it would be to relate racism to American History because of the obstacles and struggles the African Americans endured. So I went to Barnes and Nobles and Black Like Me was suggested from one of the intellectual bookworms.

I enjoyed this book a lot and thought that Griffins strategy to discovering the truth was very creative and intelligent. I can just imagine what it would be like to be degraded because of your skin color. Although I am Chinese, I still face racism daily and could never truly understand the difference that blacks go through compared to whites, unless I went to the extreme like Griffin did. He could really understand every aspect of what it is like to be of color during the 1950s.

Griffin now understands how differently he was treated since he was black. His constitutional rights were stripped from him the minute he put the black paint on. I mean John Griffin was the same man black as he was white, yet he was not liked and was treated like dirt. It really amazes me how people let the color of someones skin change their feelings toward an individual.

Black Like Me Book Review

Black Like Me is a non-fiction book written by John Howard Griffin about what a black, middle-aged man has to go through every day in the Deep South. To find out what it is like to be a Negro, Griffin changes his skin color to that of a black. During his experiences, Griffin keeps a journal and that is what this book is. Black Like Me is a journal of Griffin’s feelings, experiences, pains, and friends.

The setting of Black Like Me is intensely important. The setting starts out on October 28, 1959 in Mansfield, Texas. The setting in Black Like Me is so important because if the setting is any other place than the Southern United States then the plot is completely different. If the setting is in the north, then the issue of racism is not known. It is the south that is dealing with problems of racism.

The setting changes a few times due to Griffins moving so much. The setting later moves to New Orleans, Louisiana and then on to Hattiesburg, Mississippi. Griffin then travels to Mobile, Alabama and from Mobile to Montgomery, Alabama. From there, Griffin moves to Tuskegee, Alabama and then on to Auburn, Alabama which leads Griffin to Atlanta, Georgia. Griffin travels to New Orleans, Louisiana and finally, to the hometown of Mansfield, Texas.

With each different city which Griffin travels to there are different problems, which Griffin must face. In the first city, Griffin’s problems are mild but as time goes on and Griffin travels deeper and deeper into the south, the problems become more in-depth. The problems in the cities range from as small as having colored/white bathrooms to a white mob nearly killing a Negro. At one point in Black Like Me, a problem on a bus traveling to Hattiesburg, Alabama arises.

At a rest stop on the way to Hattiesburg, the bus driver lets all of the whites off but refuses to let the Negroes off. Here is a quote from the scene: ‘I stood on the bottom step, waiting. The driver turned back to me. \”Where do you think you’re going?\” he asked, his heavy cheeks quivering with each word. \”I’d like to go to the restroom.\” I smiled and moved to step down. He tightened his grip on the door facings and shouldered in close to block me. \”Does your ticket say for you to get off here?\” he asked. \”No sir, but the others—–\” \”Then you get your ass back in your seat and don’t you move till we get to Hattiesburg,\” he commanded’.

The most essential character in Black Like Me is John Howard Griffin. Griffin looks different as a Negro than he does as a white. Griffin as a white is muscular with light hair and fairly tall but Griffin as a Negro is ‘fierce, bald, and very dark’ and is also dresses well. Griffin is a gentle, kind man who will do almost anything to stop racism. In Black Like Me, Griffin goes to the limit.

Griffin has a wife and three children. Griffin is most curious about how his friends and other white men would treat him as a Negro as opposed to a white man. His inner most thought is this: ‘If a white man became a Negro in the Deep South, what adjustments would he have to make? What is it like to experience discrimination based on skin color, something over which one has no control?’ When Griffin is a Negro, he must overcome the temptation to get angry or to lash out at another man.

This is necessary because the reactions of white men will be different if the man is angry or not. Griffin faces many problems while he is a Negro in the Deep South. One of the problems that Griffin faces is walking blocks and blocks to find a restroom. Also, Griffin must walk nearly the same distance to get to a place where Negroes can eat and all that the small caf’s serve to Negroes is rice and beans. No job is available for Griffin, which is yet another problem.

One more problem is that at one point Griffin cannot find a place to cash a travelers check. This instance is: ‘Finally, after I gave up hope and decided I must remain in New Orleans without funds until the banks opened on Monday, I walked toward town. Small gold-lettering on a the window of a store caught my attention: CATHOLIC BOOK STORE. Knowing the Catholic stand on racism, I wondered if this shop might cash a Negro’s check. With some hesitation, I opened the door and entered. I was prepared to be disappointed. \”Would you cash a twenty-dollar travelers check for me?\” I asked the proprietress. \”Of course,\” she said without hesitation, as though nothing could be more natural. She did not even study me’. These are just a few of the problems Griffin faces in Black Like Me. Many more are to come.

John Howard Griffin uses description as much and perhaps more than dialogue. An example is’ Long talk with the Reverend Samuel Williams in his living room. Forceful man, but quiet, of fine intellect. Professor of Philosophy. \”I spent years,\” he told me, \”studying the phenomenon of love.\” Most of the language in Black Like Me consists of long uncommon words such as in the following sentences: ‘The grotesque hypocrisy slapped me as it does all Negroes’. ‘They yelled obscenities at me.

A satsuma (tangerine) hurled past my head and exploded on a building’. I sat in the monochrome gloom of dusk, scarcely believing that in this year of freedom any man could deprive another of anything basic as the need to quench thirst or use the rest room’. John Howard Griffin’s sentences are long and at times run on for entire paragraphs but on the other hand, Griffin has sentences short enough to be fragments. In Black Like Me, the reader is immediately thrown into wondering what will happen to Griffin from the catchy phrases used: ‘For years the idea haunted me, and that night it returned more insistently than ever. If a white man became a Negro in the Deep South, what adjustments would he have to make? What is it like to experience discrimination based on skin color, something over which one has no control?’ In Black Like Me, there is a short preface (about one page long) which summarizes the plot of the book. The plot of Black Like Me is not out-dated and occurs even today.

Setting, plot and character detail are all absolutely important details of Black Like Me, and could not survive without these aspects. Setting changes quite a bit as compared to other books setting almost never changes. Griffin was, in a way, sketzophrenic in which he possesses two separate personalities and two separate bodies. Racism is still a problem in today’s society and people like Griffin continue to try to end racism. Hopefully someday racism will end forever

Society in John Howard Griffin’s Black Like Me

In the Fall of 1959, John Howard Griffin set out on a journey of discovery. A discovery of his own nature, as well as a discovery of human nature. With the help of a friend, Griffin transformed his white male body into that of an African-American male body. Through a series of medical treatments, the transformation was complete. He spent the next several months as an African-American traveling through the deep South of the United States. What he discovered changed his perspective of himself, as well as his perspective of others.

On his journey, John Howard Griffin encountered what could be termed the dark side of human nature. He experienced racism in its purest form. He experienced what it was like to live in squalor with a sense of hopelessness. John Howard Griffin also experienced the antagonism of those that feared him solely because of the color of his skin. His experiences even included witnessing acts of racism with the African-American community.

(1) As a white man in White America, John Howard Griffin enjoyed certain luxuries. With those luxuries, however, is an independence of sorts. A majority of white people pass through life without much notice of other white people. What he found as an African-American was that he developed a bond with other African-Americans. The type of bond that is shared between people in the With this discovery came a certain amount of hope. A hope that the human spirit will prevail through any hardship.

Through his journey, he would step back into his true white self, and enter back into the white world. He would then observe the black world with a new sense of clarity. (3) While in the white world, he encountered white people that had a desire to change the wrongs of It would seem that white society is comprised of a great deal of felicity. That is to say, a human being will naturally be drawn towards the preservation of the self. (4) During this time period, the white man viewed the black man as a threat to the white lifestyle.

As experienced through the eyes of John Howard Griffin as a black man, the white man would have many questions as to Through Griffins experience, he learned that there is no fundamental difference in the nature of the white man as compared to the nature of the black man. There seems to be a desire to survive. The white man attempted to survive by making the black man a second citizen, which is to say lesser citizen. The black man attempted to survive by banding together as a race.

This helped the race survive through a feeling of empathy. If a human feels that he is not alone, it tends to give a more powerful sense of strength. Another interesting finding from John Howard Griffin was that white children did not necessarily share their parents racial beliefs. This offers proof that racism is not a part of human nature, but rather a by-product of the human nature of the fear of the unknown. Since the white person was unfamiliar with the black man, there was a sense of fear of the black man.

Racism is merely a defense mechanism passed down from parent to child. The white men in Black Like Me would teach their children to use racial slurs like nigger in This theory is supported by the great thinker Thomas Hobbes. Hobbes theorized that man is dictated by a psychological egoism. That basically is to say that people are selfish. They put their own needs in front of the needs of It is in this manner that the white man saved himself from the black man.

The white man saw only his own need for self-preservation. He feared the black man because of the white mans ignorance of the black man. The white man feared that the black man was different than the white man, and therefore dangerous. It is from this fear that racism springs. By keeping the black man down in society, the white man can fulfill his need to survive. This is the manner in which Hobbes views of psychological egoism are supported by John Howard Griffins experience as a black man in the John Howard Griffins experiences also helped to point out many of the known African-American stereotypes held by many white people.

One scene in particular involves Griffin hitchhiking in It was November 19, and Griffin had just arrived by bus in Biloxi. He proceeded to seek transportation to his next resting spot, Mobile, Alabama. He found that transportation by hitch-hiking with several anonymous drivers. Griffin encountered a great deal of curiosity from the people that stopped to give him transportation. Most were white males, and they all bombarded Griffin with questions. Questions ranging from the size of his genitalia to his sexual prowess.

Most of the questions dealt with the stereotypes dealing with the black males Griffin describes an almost perverse pleasure that was achieved by the white males in asking such sexual questions during these episodes; questions about his past sexual experience with white women. One such driver even asked Griffin to exit the car after Griffin refused to answer one such question. This would seem to support the theory that humans are curious, and maybe even a little frightened, of the unknown.

The constant craving for answers to apparently perverse questions showed a fear of inadequacy on the part of the white male drivers. By achieving the answers to these questions the white males were possibly hoping to allay their fear that the black man was sexually Were this to be found true, this in turn would lead to further racism. If the black male was in fact found to be sexually superior to the white male, the white male would in turn continue to keep the black male down, if Hobbes theories of psychological egoism are to be believed.

By keeping the black male down, the white male could indeed maintain their superior position in society, thereby allowing them to take care of their own Towards the end of John Howard Griffins journey, he ended up in the city of Atlanta. In Atlanta, he found a different sort of spirit among the black community. It was a spirit of social change. Griffin had arrived in Atlanta feeling that the black condition in America was one without hope. It was in Atlanta that he found a glimmer of hope within the black community. (7) While in Atlanta, John Howard Griffin met with several black community leaders. Civic leaders, men of the cloth, and various black business owners throughout the city were among his audience.

Through these conversations, Griffin discovered that Atlanta had found a way to deal with the white persons suppression of the black person. Griffin found that three main ingredients were responsible for the improved racial conditions in Atlanta. First, blacks in the community were united in their purpose. Secondly, Atlanta had at the time a fair and just mayor. And finally, the city newspaper was known for taking a stand on These findings helped Griffin to understand another facet of human nature: the survival instincts of the oppressed.

Griffin found that although the Southern African-American was African-Americans came together as a people as a The black civic leaders that John Howard Griffin had encountered in Atlanta organized the black community in such a was as to give the black people a better chance at education, health care, and employment. This in turn changed the black persons outlook on life in the city. This is what gave the black person in Atlanta hope, which is necessary for survival, which in turn is a basic During this entire event, John Howard Griffin had been keeping a journal of his experiences.

He was a reporter of sorts, and this was his story. He enlisted the help of other affluent white people from the North, as well as an internationally distributed black magazine. The trip was paid for by the magazine Sepia, and in return for the trip, Griffin was to supply the magazine with the While John Howard Griffin and Thomas Hobbes are from different eras, their concepts of basic human nature were in most cases very similar.

Hobbes theorized that man is consumed by psychological egoism, which is the need to attend to ones own needs over that of another human being. Griffin found the same line of thinking in the white man while living as a black man in the Deep South. However, Griffin also stumbled upon the resilience of the human spirit in times of duress. The black people that Griffin encountered in Atlanta were determined to improve their condition. The difference between the white people and the black people in this instance was that the black people held into account the needs of other black people.

The whites seemed only concerned with It would appear as though both thinkers share similar ideas in regards to this form of human nature. It would be interesting to determine whether race makes a difference in the outcome. That is to say, what would happen if the roles were reversed? What would happen if the black person were in a position of power and the white person If these are truly examples of human nature, one could theorize that the outcome would remain the same.

Bibliography:

(1) Black Like Me John Howard Griffin Pg. 55-59
(2) Black Like Me Pg. 116-117
(3) Black Like Me Pg. 118-121
(4)&(7) The Battle For Human Nature Barry Shwartz Pg. 41
(5) Black Like Me Pg. 85-96
(6) Black Like Me Pg. 156
(7)Black Like Me Pg. 133-139

John Howard Griffin’s Black Like Me

John Howard Griffin was a journalist and a specialist on race issues. After publication, he became a leading advocate in the Civil Rights Movement and did much to promote awareness of the racial situations and pass legislature. He was middle aged and living in Mansfield, Texas at the time of publication in 1960. His desire to know if Southern whites were racist against the Negro population of the Deep South, or if they really judged people based on the individual’s personality as they said they prompted him to cross the color line and write Black Like Me.

Since communication between the white and African American races did not exist, neither race really knew what it was like for the other. Due to this, Griffin felt the only way to know the truth was to become a black man and travel through the South. The internationally distributed Negro magazine Sepia in exchange for the right to print excerpts from the finished product financed his trip. After three weeks in the Deep South as a black man John Howard Griffin produced a 188-page journal covering his transition into the black race, his travels and experiences in the South, the shift back into white society, and the reaction of those he knew prior his knowing the book was published and released.

John Howard Griffin began this novel as a white man on October 28, 1959 and became a black man (with the help of a noted dermatologist) on November 7. He entered black society in New Orleans through his contact Sterling, a shoeshine boy that he had met in the days prior to the medication taking full effect. Griffin stayed with Sterling at the shine stand for a few days to become assimilated into the society and to learn more about the attitude and mindset of the common black man.

After one week of trying to find work other than menial labor, he left to travel throughout the Southern states of Mississippi, Alabama, and Texas. November 14, the day he decided to leave, was the day after the Mississippi jury refused to indict or consider the evidence in the Mack Parker kidnap-lynch murder case. He decided to go into the heart of Mississippi, the Southern state most feared by blacks of that time, just to see if it really did have the “wonderful relationship” with their Negroes that they said they did.

What he found in Hattiesburg was tension in the state so apparent and thick that it scared him to death. One of the reasons for this could be attributed to the Parker case decision because the trial took place not far from Hattiesburg. He knew it was a threat to his life if he remained because he was not a true Negro and did not know the proper way to conduct himself in the present situation. Griffin requested that one of his friends help him leave the state as soon as possible. P.D. East, Griffin’s friend, was more than willing to help his friend out of the dangerous situation that he had gotten himself into and back to New Orleans.

From New Orleans, traveled to Biloxi, Mississippi and began hitch hiking toward Mobile, Alabama. Griffin found that men would not pick him up in the day nearly as often as they would at night. One of the reasons being that the darkness of night is a protection of sorts and the white men would let their defenses down. Also, they would not have to be afraid of someone they knew seeing them with a Negro in their car. But the main reason was of the stereotypes many of these men had of Negroes, that they were more sexually active, knew more about sex, had larger genitalia, and fewer morals and therefore would discuss these things with them.

Many of the whites that offered Griffin rides would become angry and let him out when he would not discuss his sex life with them. One man was amazed to find a Negro who spoke intelligently and tried to explain the fallacies behind the stereotypes and what the problem with Negro society was. Many Negroes he encountered on his journey through the Deep South were very kind and opened their hearts and homes to him. One example of this is when Griffin asked an elderly Negro where he might find lodging, the man offered to share his own bed with him.

Another instance was when Griffin was stranded somewhere between Mobile and Montgomery and a black man offered him lodging at his home. The man’s home was a two-room shack that housed six members of his family, but he accepted John into his home and refused any money for the trouble saying, “he’d brought more than he’d taken.” In Montgomery, Alabama, Griffin decided it was time for him to reenter white society, but he also wanted to gain knowledge of the area as a black man. So, he devised the technique of covering an area as a black and then returning the following day as a white.

What he found was, as a black he would receive the “hate stare” from whites and be treated with every courtesy by the black community. As a white, it would be the exact opposite, he would get the “hate stare” from blacks and be treated wonderfully by the same people who despised him the previous day. After a few days of zigzagging across the color line, Griffin decided that he had enough material from his journal to create a book and enough experience as a black man so he reverted permanently into white society.

Crossing over into the white world was unsettling to Griffin, if only because of the way the same people who despised him previously due to his pigmentation treated him. The sudden ability to walk into any establishment and not be refused service was also a shock after having to search for common conveniences days before. After returning to his hometown of Mansfield, Texas Griffin was not widely accepted back into the community he once knew. Many of the residents of the city were racists; therefore they considered him one of the ‘niggers.’

The racists even went as far as to hang Griffin in effigy from the town’s stoplight one morning. This prompted him and his family to leave the area until the situation considerably calmed down. Various television and radio hosts as well as magazine interviewed Griffin and newspapermen after the book was made public. His main objective was to educate the public of the situation in the South and people couldn’t help but hear about it. Whether or not they accepted the information was not up to Griffin, but he did his best to make the knowledge available.

This book relates to American history because it takes the reader into the Deep South before the Civil Rights Movements took hold and shows what it was like to be black. In the Preface, the author states “I could have been a Jew in Germany, a Mexican in a number of states, or a member of any ‘inferior’ group. Only the details would have differed. The story would be the same.” The details he mentioned were he being black and in the South, and the story is of hatred and racism directed toward him and others like him on account of those details.

The account he related showed America and the world that race relations in the South was not the pretty picture it was painted as. Instead, he showed the daily struggle of the blacks to survive. Griffin’s bias is that white Southern Americans of that period were racist toward the African American population. The only thing altered from before he entered New Orleans to after was his appearance. He dyed his skin a very dark brown and shaved his head, his clothing, speech patterns, and references had not changed and every question was answered truthfully.

If people did judge others by their qualities and qualifications, his time in the Deep South should have been fairly uneventful. Instead, there were daily quests to find rest-room facilities, restaurants, stores, and various other ‘conveniences’ that he took advantage of before he crossed the color line. During his stay in New Orleans, blacks were forced to use specific facilities designated for them and they were usually few and far between. Other than the Greyhound station or other public buildings that blacks were allowed to enter, there were no facilities that were at par with the ones the whites had access to.

His now black skin also prevented him from entering any store and purchasing something to drink, instead he would have to find a Negro Cafe. These Cafes were not nearly as numerous as the many places the lowliest white could acquire a drink. The color of his skin also prevented him from gaining anything other than menial labor job, although his qualifications could easily get him any number of positions if he were white. . . . I walked toward Brennan’s, one of New Orleans’ famed restaurants . . . I stopped to study the menu . . . realizing that a few days earlier I could have gone in an ordered anything on the menu. But now, though I was the same person with the same appetite . . . appreciation . . . and wallet, no power on earth could get me inside this place for a meal. I recalled hearing some Negro say, ‘you can live here all your life, but you’ll never get inside one of the great restaurants except as a kitchen boy.'” The above passage represents just one of many instances where he was barred from entering an establishment solely based on his pigmentation.

As stated before, Negroes were not permitted to enter many restaurants, but libraries, museums, concert halls, and other culturally enhancing places were also barred to him even though there was no formal law against them entering. The many stereotypes of blacks being intellectually inferior just made it easier to deny them access because they did not have the mental capacities to appreciate it.

It became apparent to Griffin that because the black population was widely uneducated, they would never be able to succeed in life. One of the things inhibiting their education was the inferior quality of schools and the inability to enter establishments such as libraries and museums. The whites usually knew this and used it to their advantage to keep the black population subordinate.

Black Like Me & Beloved: Critical Analysis

Some people looking at society today tend to think that the racial prejudice of the past has nearly been done away with. Others, however, those who are still the recipients of racial prejudice in their every day lives see our society very differently. Those who think that racial prejudice is getting better may only be fooling themselves or–perhaps more likely– in some way are trying to deny the prejudice they themselves carry.

Prejudice against blacks is still very much a part of our society. White society still denies many Negroes equal opportunities for a decent standard of living, for education, for personal advancement, and for self-expression. In John Howard Griffins Black Like Me we see examples of this type of prejudice and oppression. Although the book was published over 30 years ago, the examples of the prejudice that Griffin encountered are still relevant and worthy of further evaluation today.

Another book worthy of our consideration is Toni Morrison’s, Beloved , which gives us an idea of the life that the slaves led in America before their emancipation, and the price some where willing to pay to make sure neither they nor their children ever had to experience it again.

In this paper I will use the theory of institutional discrimination to critically evaluate Griffin’s, Black Like Me. The theory of institutional discrimination states that discrimination is rooted in the institutions that run our society. I will also evaluate Morrison’s, Beloved using the theories of gendered racism and ideology and oppositional culture. Gendered racism is discrimination based on sex and gender. Ideologies are created by the dominant group to further and legitimatize its actions. Oppositional culture is what the people of color, or others suffering from discrimination do to survive the ideologies of the dominant group.

Griffin’s, Black Like Me takes the reader into the Deep South before the Civil Rights Movement and shows what it was like to be black in the South. In the Preface, Griffin states, “I could have been a Jew in Germany, a Mexican in a number of states, or a member of any ‘inferior’ group. Only the details would have differed. The story would be the same.”

The first example of Institutional discrimination that I will evaluate is when Griffin is at the YMCA coffee shop talking to a small group of men. The elderly man who runs the coffee shop tells him about how the white people are trying to divide the black race. They do this by singling out the lighter skinned, better looking, and more stylishly dressed Negroes, and try and instill in them a condescending attitude toward the darker “Uncle Tom” Negroes. This is a good example of institutional discrimination.

The whites are trying to make the lighter skinned Negroes think they are accepting them more, but in actuality are trying to get the lighter skinned Negroes to help further discriminate against there own racial color. We see later in the book that this has worked. There is the example of Christophe a nicely dressed black man addressing the blacks on the bus as ” punk niggers” (Pg.56) and then speaking in German and telling them how stupid they are. Institutional discrimination has put it in the mind of Christophe that he is some how better than these other blacks because he is more white in looks and learning.

Another example of institutional discrimination occurs on page 46. Griffin is walking down a street in New Orleans:
… I walked toward Brennan’s, one of New Orleans’ famed restaurants . . . I stopped to study the menu . . . realizing that a few days earlier I could have gone in an ordered anything on the menu. But now, though I was the same person with the same appetite . . . appreciation . . . and wallet, no power on earth could get me inside this place for a meal. I recalled hearing some Negro say, ‘You can live here all your life, but you’ll never get inside one of the great restaurants except as a kitchen boy.’

The above passage represents just one of many instances where he was barred from entering an establishment solely based on his pigmentation. As stated before, Negroes were not permitted to enter many restaurants, but libraries, museums, concert halls, and other culturally enhancing places were also barred to him even though by that time there was no formal law against them entering. This is institutional discrimination. These museums, concert halls, etc. are perpetuating the discrimination of blacks.

The many stereotypes of blacks being intellectually inferior made it easier to deny them access because they did not have the mental capacities to appreciate what was being inflicted on them. It became apparent to Griffin that because the black population was widely undereducated, they would never be able to successfully compete in life with whites.

One of the things inhibiting their education was the inferior quality of their “separate but equal” schools and the inability to enter cultural establishments such as libraries and museums. The whites used these culturally inflicted deficiencies to their advantage to keep the black population subordinate–thus perpetuating institutional discrimination.
There is the example of Griffin as a black hitch hiking. He encounters all kinds of stereotypes for blacks, stereotypes that are perpetuated through institutional discrimination. Griffin started getting picked up once it got dark and had this to say on page 87:

A man will reveal himself in the dark, which gives an illusion of anonymity, more than he will in the bright light. Some were shamelessly open, some shamelessly subtle. All showed morbid curiosity about the sexual life of the Negro, and all had, at base, the same stereotyped image of the Negro as an inexhaustible sex-machine with oversized genitals, and a vast store of experiences, immensely varied. They appeared to think that the Negro has done all of those “special” things they themselves have never dared to do. They carried the conversation into the depths of depravity. I note these things because it is harrowing to see decent-looking men and boys assume that because a man is black they need show him none of the reticences they would, out of respect, show the most derelict white man.

These are but a few examples of institutional discrimination Griffin encountered. Black Like Me is full of instances were Griffin is called names, threatened by men on the street, receives hate stares and is subject to questions about his “black” sex life. The details Griffen relates in Black Like Me is of hatred and racism directed toward him and others like him on account of their color of skin. The account he related showed America and the world that race relations in the South were not the pretty pictures they were often painted to be. Instead, he showed the daily struggle of the blacks to survive within the institutional discrimination that was and still is so prevalent in our society.

Beloved is another book that sheds light on a past that has led us to be where we are today in race relations. Beloved is an account of flashbacks, memories, and nightmares with a variety of different characters. That character Sethe is presented as a former slave woman who chooses to kill her baby girl rather than allowing her to be exposed to the physically, emotionally, and spiritually oppressive horrors of a life spent in slavery. Beloved is full of ideologies that the dominate white group uses to keep the blacks down. There are also examples of gendered racism and oppositional culture, as these blacks try and survive the ideologies of the whites.

Beloved gives us potent images of the gender racism perpetrated by Schoolteacher, a brutal overseer, and his nephews in their rape of the slave woman Sethe. What was stolen from Sethe was her sense of herself as a woman deserving of protection and respect from men. Sethe’s rape defiles her before both black and white men. Her husband, Halle, watching from a secret place, goes mad from impotent rage.

He’s impotent to do anything about it. This is an example of gendered racism. Sethe is raped at the hands of white men and can do nothing about it. Sethe has no way to seek compensation for what she endured; the men are her “superiors” and know that they can get away with this rape. If Sethe were a white woman this crime would not have blown over so easily. This is not to say that white indentured servants where never raped, but it is because Sethe was black that made here condition so hopeless and without remedy.

The whites had many ideologies that justified the cruel abuse that they put on black slaves. These ideologies obviously make it easier for the slave owners to mistreat their slaves. A good example of a basic ideology that the whites had can be found on page 190 of Beloved. Schoolteacher is accusing Sixo of stealing some shoat, Sixo insists that he didn’t steal it. He admits that he ate it and then gives his explanation for doing so:
Sixo plant rye to give the high piece a better chance. Sixo take and feed the soil, give you more crop. Sixo take and feed Sixo give you more work.

Clever, but Schoolteacher beat him anyway to show him that definitions belonged to the definers–not the defined.

Sixo tells him that he is just trying to improve Schoolteacher’s property. Schoolteacher has to put him in his place, telling him in a sense, “Don’t think that,” the white man will think and instruct for him. This is an ideology that is seen throughout this time, that the white man will dictate everything that the slaves do, from eating, working, sleeping, family issues and sexual issues.

Another example of the ideologies that where created by the whites is found on page 151. Here you see one way that the whites justified their actions. Sethe has just killed her baby and tried to kill her boys and Denver to keep them from the life Sethe fears at sweet home. Placing her children outside the horror of slavery, even if it meant taking their lives, was in her mind a justified act of love, nothing more. Schoolteacher has just left this disturbing scene, we then read:

All testimony to the results of a little so-called freedom imposed on people who needed every care and guidance in the world to keep them from the cannibal life they preferred.

Here the whites justify the enslaving of blacks by saying that they are incapable of handling freedom, and need to be taken care of by the white “civilized” people. This is an ideology that puts the blacks below the whites, and even below the level of a human being.

The last example of an ideology that I will site is found on page 237. This is where schoolteacher is teaching the boys. He has asked them to describe one of the slaves. One of the boys is describing Sethe. Schoolteacher tells them to put “human characteristics on the left; her animal ones on the right.” This is where the ideologies take root in society. Schoolteacher is putting it into the minds of these young white boys that the slaves are animals–or at least less than fully human. This will aid these young boys in their future abuse of blacks. These boys will grow with an ideology that they are superior to all blacks and that you can treat the blacks as animals.

In order to endure the ideologies that the whites had, the blacks would create an oppositional culture that would serve as a shield against the discrimination and abuse that they suffered at the hands of the whites.

An example of oppositional culture can be found on page 88 of Beloved. Here Baby Suggs preaches the gospel of love in the clearing: “a wide open space cut deep in the woods nobody knew for what.”:

In this here place, we flesh; flesh that weeps, laughs; flesh that dances on bare feet in grass. Love it. Love it hard. Yonder they do not love your flesh. They despise it. They don’t love your eyes; they’d just as soon pick em out. No more do they love the skin on your back. Yonder they flay it. And O my people they do not love your hands. Those they only use, tie, bind, chop off, and leave empty. Love your hands! Love them. Raise them up and kiss them. Touch others with them, pat them together, stroke them on your face ’cause they don’t love that either. You got to love it, you!

This beautiful speech given by Baby Suggs tells her people that they need to love, she gets specific using references to the whites not loving them. Her sermon does not advocate a heaven delayed until death, but the promise of a better life on earth, but that life must come from the people themselves.

Another way the blacks would deal with these white ideologies was through song. There is the song that Sethe sings that her mother sang to her about button eyes (pg. 100). There were the songs Paul D would sing that he learned on the chain gang (Pg. 49-50). Song has been a way for the black people to escape, from their oppression up to present day. Song has taken them to another place and let them tell their story.

Black Like Me and Beloved both sing of the oppression that the white people have put on the blacks. From Griffin being talked to as though he was less than human to Sethe being beaten and raped while pregnant. These graphic illustrations of how institutional discrimination and ideologies in the past have enabled and condoned the terrible treatment white society gave this people may be more crude and open than the prejudice that often exists in American society today, but the difference in outward manifestation is one of degree only–the institutional and ideological bases are still there condoning and sanctioning the unequal treatment accorded blacks in our society today. And the resulting harm to black society, children and adult is still there–often just as scarring and harmful as the earlier physical beatings, rapes, and physical separation.

Black songs still today evoke the pain and suffering that institutional discrimination, gender racism, and discriminatory ideology have left on black society in America. Those songs are a force for the black people still today–a way for them to remember and deal with their past and hope for their future. Ben Harper sings:

Exactly how much will have to burn
Before we will look to the past and learn
We walk along this endless path
Which has led us in a circle
So here we are right back
We can’t let our future become our past
If we are to change the world
Won’t you tell me
Tell me please
How many miles must we march
When I was a baby I was not prejudice
Hey how about you
This was something that I learned in school
Something they taught us to do
We can’t let our future become our past
If we are to change the world

Racism in Wright’s Black Boy

The theme of Richard Wright’s autobiography Black Boy is racism. Wright grew up in the deep South; the Jim Crow South of the early twentieth century. From an early age Richard Wright was aware of two races, the black and the white. Yet he never understood the relations between the two races. The fact that he didn’t understand but was always trying to, got him into trouble many times. When in Memphis, Wright reluctantly assumed the role society dictated for him, the role of a black boy. He became a black boy for the sole purpose of survival, to make enough money to eventually move North where he could be himself. As an innocent child Wright sees no difference between the blacks and the whites.

Yet he is aware of the existence of a difference. “My grandmother who was as “white” as any “white” person, had never looked “white” to me.” (Wright pg. 31). This statement shows his confusion about blacks and whites. When, as a child Wright learned of a white man beating a black boy he believed that the white man was allowed to beat the black child. Wright did not think that whites had the right to beat blacks because of their race.

Instead he assumed that the white man was the black boy’s father. When Wright learned that this was not true, and that the boy was beaten because of his race, he was un able to rationalize it. Even as he got older he didn’t see the color of people. In one instance Richard and a friend are standing outside a shop when some white people pass by, Richard doesn’t move to accomodate the white people because he simple didn’t notice that they were white. As a child, Wright ultimately learned to fear white people.

However, he still did not understand the social differences between the races. Wright’s uncle was killed by white people, and Wright’s aunt and another uncle were forced to flee from the whites. When Wright asks his mother about these incidents she tells him , “You keep your mouth shut or the white folks ll get you too.” As a teenager Wright learns that a friend’s brother was killed by a white man. When he hears about this killing he seems unable to do anything other than sit and think about the incident.

Subsequently Wright’s perception of the relations between blacks and whites becomes even more negative. The whites he encounters while working are resentful of him. They not only beat him, but try to force him to fight other blacks. Wright sees that the whites he encounters will do anything possible to belittle black people. Wright begins to live his entire life in fear of doing or saying the wrong thing and thereby subjecting himself to the wrath of the whites.

He realizes that even a minor mistake in action or word could lead to his death. For most of his life, Wright had dreams of leaving the South. As a young teenager he says, “I dreamed of going north and writing books, novels. The North symbolized to me all that I had not felt and seen.” (Wright pg.186 ). In Black Boy Wright admits that his goal was not to go North, but to escape the South.

Wright believed that the North was a haven from the racial prejudices and injustices that characterized the South. His ultimate and all consuming goal was to reach the North. To achieve this he betrayed his moral beliefs, doing things and succumbing to powers and beliefs that he said he never would. For the first time in his life he stole. More importantly he allowed himself to become a “good nigger” by mindlessly obeying the whites and pretending to have no identity and no intelligence of his own. He did all of this to reach the North and hopefully the life he had always wanted. There are many themes in Black Boy.

All of them are directly or indirectly the product of racism. Wright is hungry because his mother, a black woman, cannot find a job that pays well. Wright tries to rebel against the restraints society placed upon his race. He feels isolated because he questions the relations between the races and because he will not submit to the demands of a racist society.

I liked this book because it tells of the experiences that many people will never encounter. It has enlightened me. Before reading this book I could not have imagined the horrific truths of only a short while ago, in a place not so far away. Everyone could gain something from this book, for me it demonstrates that the human race was not, and is not as civilized as it appears.

Black Boy by Richard Wright Review

Black Boy is a story written in first person through the black boy’s eyes. The story opens with the black boy cleaning eyeglasses at the sink during the morning hours before lunch. As the boy washed eyeglasses this day as all other days, Mr. Olin, a white man who ordered the black boy around hovered over him. While striking up conversation with the black boy, Mr. Olin asks a ridiculous question if the black boy is his friend. This question in the story is the first step in developing the plot.

The black boy, fearful of the Mr. Olin and the power he has over him, decides to lie to him and tell him that he is his friend. Mr. Olin begins to trick the black boy in thinking that another black boy named Harrison wants to fight him because of words that were taken the wrong way. The black boy gets worried because he does not remember saying anything insulting to Harrison, and he wants to talk to him and make things right. Mr. Olin tells the black boy that he will go and speak to Harrison for him.

During the black boys lunch break he goes and talks to Harrison himself about the situation, but soon they realize that they are being set up to fight each other in order to entertainment to the white men. Both black boys keep their mouths shut about speaking to each other and knowing the truth that neither of them wants to fight. Mr. Olin and Harrison’s boss both keep egging them on for weeks to fight each other and finally bribe them with five dollars to box fight.

Harrison is interested because he wants a suit and this money will help, but the other black boy knows that this is shameful and does not want to fight no matter what the bribe is. For days Harrison and the black boy dispute whether to box or not, and they finally decided to box but to pretend. The day comes to fight and both stare each other in the face realizing that they do not have enough knowledge about fighting to fake the whole scene. The fight begins and the two boys angry at themselves, each other, and their authority begin to fight and shed blood. After their fight both boys feel shame and degraded and never fight again although they are egged on many times after.

The character of the black boy is an interesting person because he respects himself though he lives in a society where respect is not known to blacks at all. Many believe that blacks are so uneducated and unintelligent in this society. Mr. Olin is one person who shows throughout the story that he thinks the black boys are brainless. Asking the black boy in his own factory if he believes they are friends is the first scene in which he shows that he believes that black boys are dim-witted.

The black boy confronting Harrison himself shows that he is a brave person and that he has a big heart. He states that he does not remember saying anything insulting, but that he wants to make things clear and right between the two of them. He also shows that he values himself through his reasoning in not fighting. He repeatedly says that the he does not want to be like dogs or roosters, staged to fight for entertainment of others.

I find the black boy very respectable because he goes against society and does not disrespect himself though he knows others do. I am very disappointed in the end because I believe he lets himself down by finally surrendering his self worth to fight Harrison and looking like a dog! Obviously he knows he let himself down as well because he felt shame and hated himself for what he had done.

Reading this text I am ashamed of the white society during this time. I believe that the intellectual level was switched especially in this story between the blacks and the whites. Obviously, Mr. Olin was the brainless one in this story and the black boy was the smart one figuring out Mr. Olin.

Richard Wright really brings the story into reality by illustrating the way he feels about the whites wanting them to fight to dogs fighting because dogs are still today staged to fight for entertainment. I personally believe this was a sad story, but it is our history and I need to be knowledgeable about the facts of society during this time. I am very impressed with Richard writing about himself as a black boy and the worth he had for himself shows throughout the story.

Black Boy Summary

Black Boy, Richard Wright’s autobiography, covers his childhood and early adulthood. It opens with four-year-old Richard’s rebellion against authority, an important motif in Black Boy. At the time, Richard was restless and resentful of his mother’s injunction of silence. Richard accidentally burned down his grandparents’ house in his attempt to find something to occupy his time. After his mother determined that he was unharmed, she beat him so badly he lost consciousness.

When Richard and his brother were very young, Nathan Wright, their father, abandoned the family, plunging them into poverty. Richard’s constant hunger made him extremely bitter toward his absent father. Over the next few years, Ella, Richard’s mother, would desperately attempt to feed, clothe, and shelter her children. Her long hours of work often meant leaving her children with little supervision. When Richard was six years old, he began begging drinks in a nearby saloon where the customers plied him with nickels if he would repeat various curse words and offensive phrases. When beatings proved ineffective in breaking her son of his growing obsession with alcohol, Ella engaged the babysitting services of an older black woman in the neighborhood.

Ella moved in with her sister, Maggie, and Maggie’s husband, Silas Hoskins. Hoskins was the proprietor of a successful saloon, so there was always more than enough food to eat. Nevertheless, Richard was unable to lose the fear that his hunger would return anew, so he hoarded food all over the house. Unfortunately, the newfound stability was not destined to last. The local whites were jealous of Hoskins’s profitable business, so they murdered him and threatened to kill the rest of his family. Maggie and Ella fled with the two boys to live in another town. Maggie and Ella’s combined wages proved adequate to feed and clothe Richard and his brother, but Maggie became involved with “Professor” Matthews, a wanted man. Ella and the children fled to the North after Matthews killed a white woman; Ella once again had to work alone to provide for herself and her children.

Ella’s health began to deteriorate. Lacking rent money, she and her sons were forced to move several times. A paralytic stroke disabled her, so Richard was forced to write to his grandmother for help. Ella’s siblings gave what help they could, but none of them could take on the responsibility for both of her children. Richard’s grandmother took on the responsibility for caring for Ella. Maggie took Richard’s younger brother to be raised in Detroit, while Richard chose to live with his Uncle Clark, who lived close to Richard’s grandmother. However, Richard ultimately could not get along with Clark and his wife, Jody, so he returned to Jackson to live with his mother in his grandparents’ home.

Richard’s grandmother was a strict Seventh Day Adventist, but Richard was an atheist from an early age. He also had aspirations to be a writer, a profession that his grandmother distrusted as “worldly.” His relationship with his grandmother was, therefore, a never-ending confrontation. His Aunt Addie eventually joined the crusade to save his soul, and Richard was enrolled in the religious school where she taught. One day, she beat Richard in class for an offense that he did not commit. She tried to beat him again after school, but Richard fought her off with a knife. In the following years, Richard would have to arm himself against the violence of various members of his family.

Despite his erratic schooling, Richard managed to graduate from the ninth grade. He tried to work to save money in order to move to the North, but he found himself unable to assume the role of humble inferior to his white employers and co-workers. During this time, he suffered numerous frightening, often violent, confrontations with white racism. He moved to Memphis where the atmosphere was less dangerous. He rebuffed the attempts of his kindly landlady, Mrs. Moss, to marry him to her daughter, Bess. Meanwhile, he began saving in earnest for his escape to the North. His mother, brother, and Aunt Maggie joined him in Memphis and later moved with him to Chicago.

Chicago awakened new desires and dreams in Richard, but he was still too afraid to fully acknowledge them. Mired in the sadness and chaos of the great depression, Richard found an ideology that appealed to him in Communism. He felt that he could aid the Communists in spreading their message via his writing, but to his horror and dismay, he soon discovered that petty rivalries and paranoia ran deep among his comrades. He found himself the object of suspicion and distrust because he was branded an “intellectual.” After a series of political battles and a great deal of persecution, Richard became estranged from the Party. He was ousted by several Communists when he tried to march in a May Day parade, but he did not let this rejection defeat him. Instead, he resolved to find his own forms of expression and self-realization through his writing.

Black Boy an Autobiography by Richard Wright

Black Boy is an account of a young African-American boy’s thoughts and outlooks on life in the South while growing up. The novel is 288 pages, and was published by Harper and Row Publishers in 1996. The main subject, Richard Wright, who was born in 1908, opens the book with a description of himself as a Four-year-old in Natchez, Mississippi, and his family’s later move to Memphis. In addition it describes his early rebellion against parental authority, and his unsupervised life on the streets while his mother is at work. His family lives in poverty and faces constant hunger.

As a result his family lives with his strict grandmother, a fervently religious woman. In spite of his frequent punishment and beatings, Wright remembers the pleasures of rural life. Richard then describes his family’s move to Memphis in 1914. Though not always successful, Richard’s rebellious nature pervades the novel. This is best illustrated by his rebellion against his father. He resents his father’s the need for quiet during the day, when his father, a night porter, sleeps. When Mr. Wright tells Richard to kill a meowing kitten if that’s the only way he can keep it quiet, Richard has found a way to rebel without being punished. He takes his father literally and hangs the kitten.

But Richard’s mother punishes him by making him bury the kitten and by filling him with guilt. Another theme is seen when his father deserts the family, and Richard faces severe hunger. For the first time, Richard sees himself as different from others, because he must assume some of the responsibilities of an adult. In contrast to his above characteristics, Richard soon shows his ability in learning, even before he starts school, which he begins at a later age than other boys because his mother couldn’t afford his school clothes.

Rebellion, hunger (for knowledge and food), and the sense of being different will continue with Richard throughout this book. In the following chapters the Wrights move to the home of Richard’s Aunt Maggie. But their pleasant life there ends when whites kill Maggie’s husband. Later the threat of violence by whites forces Maggie to flee again. Additional unfortunate events include Richard’s mother having a stroke. As a result, Richard is sent to his Uncle Clark’s, but he is unhappy there and insists on returning to his mother’s.

Later, Richard confronts his Aunt Addie, who teaches at the Seventh-Day Adventist church school. He also resists his grandmother’s attempts to convert him to religious faith. He writes his first story and blossoms in a literary sense. Richard then gets a job selling newspapers but quits when he finds that the newspapers hold racist views. Soon after this incident, his grandfather dies. Richard publishes his first story. The reaction from his family is overwhelmingly negative, though they can do nothing to stop his interest in literature.

When he graduates, Richard becomes class valedictorian. But he refuses to give the speech written for him by the principal. Upon entering the harsh world of actual adulthood, Richard has several terrifying confrontations with whites. In the most important of these confrontations, he is forced out of a job because he dares to ask to learn the skills of the trade. These same harsh realities of life also force Richard to learn to steal. By stealing he acquires enough money to leave the Deep South.

Richard finds a place to stay in Memphis. The owner of his rooming house encourages him to marry her daughter, Bess. As a result of his inborn fear of intimacy, he refuses. Richard then takes another job with an optical company. The foreman tries to provoke a fight between him and a black employee of another company. In the culmination of Richard’s interest in literature, he borrows a library card and discovers the hard- hitting style of columnist H. L. Mencken and begins to read voraciously.

Finally, in the last chapter, Richard leaves for Chicago. When Richard tells his boss that he is leaving, he says that his departure is at his family’s insistence. The white men at the factory are uneasy about a black man who wants to go north. They seem to consider that desire an implicit criticism of the South and thus of them. On the train north, Richard reflects on his life. He wonders why he believes that life could be lived more fully. His answer is that he acquired this belief from the books he read, which were critical of America and suggested that the country could be reshaped for the better.

Wright seems to have wanted a different and better life long before he discovered Mencken and the other writers he read in Memphis. As Richard continues his reflections, he thinks the white South has allowed him only one honest path, that of rebellion. He argues to himself that the white South, and his own family, conforming to the dictates of whites, have not let him develop more than a portion of his personality. Yet he also thinks he is taking with him a part of the South. Here Wright focuses on the way his life in the South has been typical of other black lives, all stunted by racism.

Wright’s portrayal of himself growing up seems to be accurate; his personal feelings at the time of the book’s composition, and during his childhood adding to the reader’s understanding of the life and times of the author. Although an arguably confused and purposeless individual, Wright did achieve much in his strife against racism and its limits on his people. In becoming a community leader, he shared his perception about America, a perception of a part of America that was unknown territory. His admirable character allowed him to channel all the anger and ambiguities in his life and focus them to a good cause.

 

Black Boy: Racist Situation

One main point of the United States Constitution was missing from the Jim Crow South: equality. The Constitution clearly states that all men are created equal, but in the Jim Crow era, blacks were continuously persecuted for something that would be acceptable today.

During slavery the South was a place of racial prejudice, discrimination, and hate. Blacks could be punished for simply looking at a white person the wrong way. Punishments included arrests, beatings, even lynchings were a common part of the age. Blacks in this time were considered second class citizens and had basically no rights what so ever.

Blacks that Richard knew, dealt with racism in different ways. One way that Richards friend Griggs dealt with racism was to learn to act how whites wanted him to. He wouldnt do anything to make white people mad. Some advice that Griggs gave to Richard was to, learn how to live in the South (217). He told him to get out of white peoples way and to not make them mad. Griggs main advice was to act like a black boy is suppose to.

Another person who had to deal with racism was the hotel maid at Richards old job at a hotel. She was walking out of the hotel with Richard and a white security guard grabbed her butt. Even though she knew exactly what happened, she just kept on walking. Richard asked her, How could you let him do that (234). She replied, It dont matter. They do that all the time (234). The hotel maid had encountered this abuse a lot so she was used to it, knowing if she spoke up she would be punished. Richard wanted to do something but she just told him, You woulda been a fool if you had done something (234). By this she meant to let whites do whatever they pleased.

Shorty, an elevator operator, dealt with racism in a different way. As he was working the elevators one day, a white man got on. In desperate need of a quarter for lunch, he asked the white man for one. The white man refused, so Shorty stopped the elevator. He wouldnt go to the mans floor until he gave him a quarter. Shorty pulled down his pants and told him he could kick him in the butt for 25 cents. The guy did and gave the money to Shorty.

Richard, who was on the elevator observing everything that had happened, said, A quarter cant pay you for what he did to you (270). Shorty just replied Yeah but my ass is tough and quarters are scarce (270). Shorty is a daring boy and he would do what ever it takes to get ahead in life.

On the other hand Richard himself coped with racism in many different ways. One racist situation that Richard encountered was when he was suppose to read his valedictorian speech at his graduation. A couple of days before Richards graduation the principle of Richards school called him in to his office. The principle gave Richard a prepared speech to read for the graduation.

Richard explained to him that he had already wrote a speech. The principle told him, Listen boy, your going to speak to both white and colored people that night. What can you alone think of saying to them (206). Angered, Richard responded, The people are coming to hear the students and I wont make a speech that youve written (206). The thought of not reading a speech that Richard wrote was terrible to Richard. He wanted to read his own speech so he could feel pride in something that he worked hard on.

Another situation that Richard had to cope with racism was when he worked in a clothing store. He saw his boss and his bosses son beat a black woman half to death. He didnt have much options but to sit there and continue doing his job. When Richard witnessed this he was outside on the sidewalk. I watched out of the corner of my eyes, but I never slackened the strokes of my chamois upon the brass (212), he described. He thought it was right to sit their and not act on anything that was happening.

After a few minutes later the lady stumbled out of the store, only to be accused of being drunk by a white police man who witnessed the whole thing. Richard walked in side and saw blood, hair and pieces of clothing on the ground. My face must have reflected my shock, for the boss slapped me reassuringly on the back (213), he thought to himself. The boss handed Richard a cigarette and he excepted. This saying that if you keep your mouth shut and act like a black boy is suppose to then nothing will happen to you and you might even get rewarded.

In one particular situation Richard was backed into a corner. It occurred when he was working for a black Yankee in an optical factory. Richard had these two co-workers, Pease and Reynolds who accused him of calling Mr. Pease, Pease. This was a battle that Richard could not win. If he confessed and said yes he did call Mr. Pease, Pease. Then he would be in a lot of trouble. If he denied it, that was even worse. That would mean that he was calling them Liars. Reynolds told Richard, You cant call a white man a liar and get away with it (225). Richard had no only one way of getting out of this mess, and it was to leave his job and go up north. He was scared for his life so he had no other choice. This tells you that back during the Jim Crow era, if you have white enemies then you are in some serious trouble.

Richards way of coping with racism was different then other peoples because Richard is more independent. Richards way of coping with racism was to act nice and respectful towards whites. On the other hand, he also thinks that he should not act like that. He thinks that whites dont deserve this kind of treatment. There is nothing he can do because if he acts like blacks are just as equal as whites, then he would probably end up dead.

If he acts like whites are much better then blacks then nothing would happen to him. This makes him burn up inside knowing that he hates whites so much and that blacks should not give whites this sort of respect. In this story, Richard shows that people all have the same feelings and are as alike on the inside as they are different on the outside. He also shows that there is no place in the world for racism.

Native Son and Black Boy – Compare

1.The point of view of this novel would be third-person narrator, which is neither objective or omnicent; just all knowing. Throughout the novel the narrator sees through the eyes of bigger which in turn helps get a really good picture and description of the way the black community is. Due to this the white people are kind of poorly described because it is described as Bigger Thomas would describe the white folk. The narrator is always telling and aware of Biggers thought feelings, all emotions and what he’s thinking of doing. And showing Biggers point of view allows you (the reader) to feel what he is feeling and feel sorry for him and reason with him. Through the novel you can really get an idea of how he goes from feeling weak and angry in the beginning to powerful yet sad in the end.

2.Bigger is shown to us at the beginning of the book as a young black boy wanting so badly to be able to everything a white person could do. It is shown to us that bigger keeps all his fear and hate and emotions bottled up inside of himself, especially with whites because of the way that they make him feel. I believe it to be though that Bigger does the most significant change in his character when he kills the young white girl Mary and gets sent to jail. With Mary he was able to let his feelings out after he had seen what happened, what he’d done. All the hate he could see that in a way he was like the white people, they’re both full of hate and vengeance. The most significant change that effected the story is when all of this made bigger feel powerful and stronger so he felt better but everything just made him more angry and worse.

3.A narrative technique that I believe is important to this novel is the way the author describes everything from Biggers point of view, yet is still able to make you see it separate from him as the third person. He is really able to get into detail about how he lives ad how the people around him live and feel while still just seeing through the eyes of that character. Yes, seeing through the eyes of him and not being is done very well. Especially during the time that he spends in jail for the charge of murdering the “poor white girl” Mary. And showing the minor themes of men and women with Bigger’s affair with Bessie and how its is affected by the difficult conditions they have to live in.

4.A recurring image pattern that was used in this story that I noticed is the cycle of violence and hate that Bigger Thomas seems to be caught up in. The reason Bigger Thomas keeps all of his hate and emotions bottled up is because of the way he lives and the way the white man makes him feel. And because of these emotions he acts them out with hate and violence which in tun makes him feel more powerful so he wants to do it again. When he does this violence over and over again it makes the white people angry at his race so they take it out on them by oppressing them with racism and hate and giving them a bad environment; and because of this environment it causes Bigger to keep all of his hate and emotions bottled up. So as you can see Bigger and the whole black community are caught up in a cycle that cant end even if they try.

5.1″At the pool hall, Gus and Bigger stand outside and talk. They see a plane circling overhead. It is a skywriting plane, and the two young men watch the wispy white smoke gradually spell out the words, “Use Speed Gasoline,” a message that only highlights the fact that neither Bigger nor Gus has any chance of owning a car. ”
I believe what the author was trying to say here was that even the world that they live in , that they feel most comfortable with is shown at every place that they are the poor ones; they can never be as good as the other guy, there at the bottom.
2″Bigger goes through the Daltons’ fence and thinks that even if he is doing wrong, the Daltons can only deny him the job, not kill him.”
This shows that Bigger is trying to use the color of his skin as an advantage, what he’s doing is expected of a black person, for them to break the rules; because of this the white folk wont think much of it.
3″Peggy brings Bigger into the kitchen and gives him food. She comments that Mr. Dalton gives money to “colored” schools, and she mentions that, though his wife had millions when he married her, he also made a great deal of money in real estate after the marriage.”
Peggy trys to convince Bigger that her husband is a good man always trying to help people like him, I thought this was just a stupid attempt at trying to make a conversation with a bad topic.

6.The main character being Bigger, shows that almost all of his main conflicts are internal and external. Like his hate and rage against the white people, in the beginning of the story Bigger keeps his rage and hate all internal and lets no one know about it. Then as the story progresses he begins to acts his hate out with violence and shows everyone what his feeling and thinking. The only conflict that is mostly external and out of his hands is the one to do with his environment. Even though his environment shapes who he is and they way he feels, he cant control his environment because of the color of his skin. Because he is black he is forced into poverty and depression and there’s nothing that he can do about it. He cant be white and have it easy, he cant get a good job even if he was the best on qualified for it, there nothing he can do its all out of his hands. In the end none of these seem to be resolved, it all appears to be a cycle that never ends.

7.I think that in this story there are really several themes to it. The main one which I believe is kind of obvious is all the rage and hate that goes around with Bigger Thomas. And because of this rage he trys to push out everything and everyone which got him into the trouble that he’s in. Another theme I noticed is all the racism; this book just screams it, because he is black Thomas is forced to live in a rat infested slim hole and pays more rent then the white people that have nicer places. And why may you ask your self do the whites have nicer places, well that’s just because where the whites live they wont accept blacks to. Religion is really the only other theme that I had noticed while reading this book, because of Biggers moms religion he believes that she is just blind to all the hate and pain around her. Bigger believes that if there was truly something worth believing then that God wouldn’t let Bigger’s black people be treated like they way that they are being treated.

Black Boy By Richard Wright Summary

Chapter 1

At Richards’ grandmother’s house. He sets some curtains on fire, which leads to the house catching on fire. The family moves to Memphis. Richard hangs a cat after his father tells him to (sarcastically) Richard’s mother punishes him. At six while hanging out at a saloon he becomes a drunkard. At this age there are no racial differences to him. Richard and his brother are taken to an orphanage to live. His father has left the family for another woman. His mother is ill and can’t work.

Chapter 2

His mother takes Richard and his brother to live at their grandmother’s house. They move to Arkansas to live with Maggie and her husband b/c granny’s religious rules tie them down. Maggie and Richard’s mother are sisters. Maggie’s husband, a successful saloon owner, is killed. In fear for their lives they go back to granny’s house. They then move back to Memphis. Aunt Maggie left with a man who killed a white woman.

Chapter 3

Richard’s mother had a stroke. Her left side was paralyzed. They went to live with Granny. Afterwards Richard’s brother goes to live with Aunt Maggie in the north. Richard goes to live with Uncle Clark. After finding that a boy died in his room he can’t sleep. He finally went home to Granny. His mother is living at Granny’s her health is improving.

Chapter 4

Richard is twelve years old. The poetry of religious hymns inspires Richard to write his own poetry. Richard isn’t religious his granny tries to convert him. One day at church he tells his grandmother that if he ever saw an angel he would believe. His grandmother misunderstands him and thinks that he has seen an angel. His grandmother tells everyone that he has seen an angel. Afterwards Richard apologizes and promises to pray for salvation. When he prays he find nothing to say to God. This is when he writes his first story. Richard is given up by the family. He is an outsider.

Chapter 5

Richard wants to earn some money to buy lunch. His granny won’t let him work on the weekends. So he threatens to leave. Granny gives in. He starts selling papers. He enjoys the supplementary section of the newspaper. It has stories in it. When Richard finds out that they are published by the Ku Klux Klan he stops selling them. In the summer he takes the job of an assistant to an illiterate insurance salesman. But his employer dies during the winter. Richards grandfather dies. Richard’s grandfather served in the Union Army. He spent the rest of his life expecting the government to give him his pension.

Chapter 6

Richard gets a job working for a female white. She insults him by giving him moldy bread and old molasses. When she inquires what grade he is in school he tells her that he is in the 7th grade and that he wants to be a writer. The white woman tells him that he will never be a writer. He doesn’t return to the job the next day.

Chapter 7

Richard is now in 8th grade. When he writes a story for a local black newspaper everyone is confused by it. This wasn’t expected of a Black Boy.

Chapter 8

As Richard gets older he is isolated from his classmates and relatives. His brother, who comes to visit, also becomes critical of his ways. He also finds out that his Uncle Tom is telling his cousin Maggie to stay away from him. Richard wants to leave. Richard is valedictorian of his 9th grade class. The principal wants Richard to read a speech he has written. Richard has already prepared a speech. The principal threatens that Richard will not graduate if he doesn’t read his speech. Richard reads his own speech. He is isolated even more by his peers and relatives. In the year 1925 he goes out into the world at the age of 17.

Chapter 9

As he works at different places the hatred of white people follow. He is beaten up by white boys. He is fired from one job for seeing the beating of a black woman. At an optical house his white co-workers mistreat him. His employer who is from the north understands Richard’s problem but the co-workers are out to get him. Richard wants to escape to the north.

Chapter 10

Richard wants to leave the south. To go north he needs money. He gets the money through crime. His conscience is his punishment. When he obtains the money that he needs he stops stealing. He tells his mother that he will send for her. He leaves Jackson for Memphis.

Chapter 11

Richard moves to Memphis. Mrs. Ross he is Richard’s landlady. When he arrives she greets him with warmth. She offers Richard her daughter, Bess. He refuses her. This will ruin his plans of going north.

Chapter 12

Richard gets a job at an optical house. He watches in disgust as Shorty an elevator operator lets himself be kicked by a white man, just to get 25 cents. Richard meets a boy named Harrison who works at the optical house across the street. Their employers made them fear each other by telling them that the other was out to get them. The whites then coaxed them into fighting each other for 5 dollars each. They accept. Afterwards Richard is humiliated.

Chapter 13

Richard borrows a library card from a Catholic co-worker, Mr. Falk. He obtains books to read. Through these books he learned that words could be used as weapons. He keeps the fact that he reads books a secret. Richard sends for his mother and his brother to live with him.

Chapter 14

Aunt Maggie comes to live with them. Her man has left her. The family decides that Aunt Maggie and Richard should go to the north first then his mother and brother would follow.
Part Two
The Horror and the Glory.

Chapter 15

Aunt Maggie and Richard arrive in Chicago in 1927. They stayed with Aunt Cleo’s. After a while Richard’s mother and brother came to live with them. Then Richard moved into a two room apartment with Aunt Cleo. He read lots of books and practiced writing. He got a job as a dishwasher in the North Side Caf. Richard took a postal workers exam. He failed b/c he didn’t meet the weight requirement. He started to eat a lot of food.

Chapter 16

In the spring he gained enough weight to meet the requirement. They moved to
A larger apartment with his increased pay. He was happy. He met an Irish chap who was as cynical as Richard was. He introduced Richard to Irish, Jewish, and Negro group of friends. He met a Negro literary group on Chicago’s South Side.

The Great Depression arrives. Jobs are scarce. Aunt Cleo, his mother and his brother become ill. He got a job from a distant cousin selling insurance policies. He became an insurance agent. Sometimes if the clients could not pay they would exchange sex for premiums. They were usually from young, black, illiterate girls. He also helped in swindling clients. Communism among blacks increase. Times get hard. He can’t sell insurance anymore.

Chapter 17

Richard went to a relief station for help. When Christmas came he was called for a temporary job at a post office. When that job ended he was assigned by the relief station to a medical research institute. He helped take care of the laboratory animals.

Chapter 18

Richard was invited to join the John Reed Club. To contribute writing. Richard wrote poems and they were published. After two months of belonging to the club he was appointed as executive secretary of the Left Front group.

Chapter 19

Richard joined the Black communist party. He was surprised to find out that they were not very serious about their issues. Richard had decided to write biographical sketches on Ross, a black communist who was under an indictment for inciting a riot. Richard was warned that the communists did not like intellectuals. They discriminated against intellectuals. Ross was later charged on three violations of the communist party. Richard was ordered by the communist party to stay away from Ross. The clubs that he was writing for were dissolved by the communist party. He also heard that his ideas were corrupting the communist party. He was going to resign from the communist party. When he told his comrades about this they said that no one could resign from the communist party. That he would be publicly expelled.

Chapter 20

From the Federal Experimental Theater he was transferred to the Federal Writers Project. There he was ostracized by the communists. On May Day there was a march when he tried to join in the march he was shoved out of the way. This made Richard feel even more alone. In the south he had been discriminated against because he was black. Here in the Black communist party he was discriminated for being an intellectual. He felt that the whites were just as miserable as their black victims were.

Benito Cereno by Herman Melville

Herman Melville uses Benito Cereno as a voice for his observations and comments on the state of America and its people. He uses the two captains to represent two opposing attitudes toward slavery adopted by his pre-Civil War audience, and his own ideas about where the country is headed.

In the end of the story, Captain Delano seems to learn that things are not necessarily always as they seem, but that is about all he learns. Even this, he seems to label as purely circumstantial and not to be applied to every situation. There does come a moment of clarity during the struggle between Don Benito and Babo right after the two have jumped into Captain Delanos boat, and later during his discussion of these events with Don Benito, when the good Captain becomes aware of what is actually going on and the faults in his assumptions. Instead of changing his assumptions however, Delano simply says what good luck it was that he was so nave to what was really going on because if he had been more suspicious he would have tried to remedy the situation and may have only added to the mess.

Before he sets foot on the San Dominick, Delano knows that something is not right with the ship. He knows he is in a bad place for anything to go wrong because no one is around to help him, and that there are stories surrounding the area that should make him nervous. He is not nervous however, because he is, a person of a singularly undistrustful nature, not liable, except in extensive and repeated incentives, and hardly then, to indulge in personal alarms, any way involving the imputation of malign evil in man.(2372) I believe this is actually an understatement.

Even in the extreme and repeated incentives he encounters on the San Dominick, any alarm that he experiences he immediately rationalizes and ignores. When Benitos story falls apart, and the servant, who apparently makes him so nervous in the scene in his cabin when Babo is shaving Benito, wont leave his side and after watching the two conference together over every step the captain takes, not even when Benito starts asking him all about the crew and fire power, and supplies on his ship, not even then does Delano take heed of these obvious alarms. He would rather think Don Benito was crazy than think that either Benito or Babo had anything but good intentions for him and his crew, as well as for each other.

Several times he uses the setting to dispel any misgivings he has regarding his situation on the San Dominick. At first he says that he only feels uneasy because of the eerie atmosphere. The perfect calm of the place and the bleak gray sky dont give him much hope of getting either the Bachelors Delight or the San Dominick safely to port, and the lack of a good wind prolongs his stay with the strangers because his boat cannot use sails. Later, after the wind picks up a little, and after spending a little more time on the ship observing the strange way it is run and Don Benitos more apparent lack of control, he uses the wind to cheer himself. He thinks that surely his own boat will return soon with supplies and that this wind will serve him well, that he will save the ailing Don Benito and his ship, and that any uneasiness he experienced was mere foolishness and everything will soon be as it should be just because the wind has picked up.

When he tries to cheer Don Benito with news of the wind, he gets no response. Delano thinks he does not welcome this change in the weather because he does not believe it will last owing to the story he has been told of their journey. A story Delano didnt completely believe, but he is not suspicious of this, he just feels sorry for the poor affected captain. In reality, Benito does not welcome the wind because he knows that either Captain Delano will leave and he will lose control of his ship to Babo again, or Babo will follow through with his plan to take the Bachelors Delight. However, Delano is so unsuspecting that this goes unnoticed.

Part of the reason for Delano being so unaware of the situation is, as Melville says, he is by nature a very trusting man. He has a lot of faith in the general goodness of the human race. The other part of his problem, I believe, lies in the assumptions he makes about Babo and the rest of the Africans on the ship. He doesnt think they are capable of outwitting the Spaniards and taking control of the ship. After all, they are the slaves and the Spaniards are the masters, it is ridiculous to him to think that the roles might be reversed. On observing Don Benito praising the blacks and speaking poorly of his own sailors, he thinks, The whites, too, by nature were the shrewder race.

A man with some evil design, would he not be likely to speak well of that stupidity which was blind to his depravity, and malign that intelligence from which it might not be hidden?(2395) He thinks that if anyone is plotting anything, it must be Don Benito, not that he seems very capable, Delano has already said that he thinks he might be affected mentally by the stress of the fictitious voyage. However, as unlikely a character as Benito is to be plotting anything, it is the only explanation open to Delano, because anything else would put the whites in a position of submission to the blacks, and this is inconceivable to Delano.

On the voyage to Lima, Don Benito finally puts all the pieces together for Delano, explaining Babos role as conspirator and the captains necessity of conforming to his former slaves will. Still, Delano is unwilling to change his assumptions about the Africans intelligence and cunning. He simply says how lucky they are that everything turned out the way it did, and that they should forget about it. He makes the comment to Benito that, the past is past, why moralize upon it?(2426) He says that the sun has forgotten about it, that the sea and the sky have turned over new leaves, and that he and Benito should do the same. Benito replies that this is because, they have no memory they are not human.(2426)

The American and the Spaniard play opposite each other here, as they do throughout the story. Delanos physical health and friendly altruistic attitude represent all the things missing in Don Benito. Similarly, the sickly, introverted, suspicious captain of the San Dominick is a reflection of all the qualities missing in Delano, including the thoughtful contemplation that serves both to make him aware of his world, and to give him his grimmer outlook on the world. Both captains can be used to represent aspects of Melvilles audience.

For the most part, his readers would have identified with Delano. He represents the general pre-Civil War American public. Several times Melville refers to him as, the American and we can easily make the transition to a more general reading of this title. As a preface to the excerpts from the trial, we are told that, at first, many of the events as Don Benito recalled them were not taken seriously because of his disturbed mental state. It says he, raved of some things which could never have happened.(2417) This reaction is indicative of many of the assumptions Delano makes regarding the cunning of the blacks aboard the ship.

The American public at the time was very content in thinking that their African slaves were mentally inferior and wanted nothing more that to please their masters the way Babo appears to desire the health and happiness of his master. The reality, however, as Don Benito is all too aware, is that, not only are they cunning enough to want something more, but they can take this inane assumption and use it to their advantage the way Babo does to fool our good Captain Delano. The American public may think that they are learning something along with Captain Delano, specifically that things are not always as they seem, but if they never apply this to their assumptions about the mental capacity of their slaves, they are missing the point.

Leaving it up to the reader to determine exactly what it is that Delano learns at the end of the tale propagates this ambiguity. If the reader is willing to analyze the story as more than a story, he will eventually see that his assumptions are wrong, however, it is more likely that he will just pass it off as an entertaining story. Another reason for Delanos unwillingness to give the blacks credit for their cunning is that this would imply something evil about slavery. If the blacks actually are not happily living a purposeful life serving their masters, they must want something else and be capable of more. If this is true, slavery is no longer the natural order of things, the weak inferior race serving the superiors, instead it is maligning nature and is inherently evil.

The small portion of the American public who would have identified with Don Benito at the end of the novel are those who look deeper into the meaning of the story. They would notice that although the Spanish Captains tale was brushed aside at first, it was later supported by the testimony of the remaining sailors. They might learn, along with Delano and the others, that appearances can be deceiving, but they would realize that this applies to Delanos assumptions about the intelligence of the blacks on the ship, and consequently to their own assumptions about the state of their own black slaves in the South. They would then realize that the ways of their world are dieing along with Don Benito, and that this novel really foretells the passing of an age.

In the opening paragraphs, after describing the unusually trusting disposition of Captain Delano, Melville comments, Whether in view of what humanity is capable, such a trait implies, along with a benevolent heart, more than ordinary quickness and accuracy of intellectual perception, may be left to the wise to determine.(2372) Melville is asking us to look deeper into his story, saying that it has not been written just for entertainment, and he would have favored Don Benitos interpretation of events over Delanos no matter how bleak and unappealing it may seem.

He saw that the reality of slavery and the direction America was headed was very bleak and unappealing, and it wouldnt do any good to ignore the reality of it any longer. He doesnt come out and directly say this to his audience however, because it would not have been received very well. By making these implications more ambiguous than we would like, he is actually reaching a wider audience and not risking offending them so much that they would right him off as crazy they way Delano and the court were ready to do with Don Benito.

The struggle for social and economic equality of Black people in America

The struggle for social and economic equality of Black people in America has been long and slow. It is sometimes amazing that any progress has been made in the racial equality arena at all; every tentative step forward seems to be diluted by losses elsewhere. For every “Stacey Koons” that is convicted, there seems to be a Texaco executive waiting to send Blacks back to the past. Throughout the struggle for equal rights, there have been courageous Black leaders at the forefront of each discrete movement.

From early activists such as Frederick Douglass, Booker T. Washington, and W. E. B. DuBois, to 1960s civil rights leaders and radicals such as Martin Luther King, Malcolm X, and the Black Panthers, the progress that has been made toward full equality has resulted from the visionary leadership of these brave individuals. This does not imply, however, that there has ever been widespread agreement within the Black community on strategy or that the actions of prominent Black leaders have met with strong support from those who would benefit from these actions. This report will examine the influence of two “early era” Black activists: Booker T. Washington and W. E. B. DuBois.

Through an analysis of the ideological differences between these two men, the writer will argue that, although they disagreed over the direction of the struggle for equality, the differences between these two men actually enhanced the status of Black Americans in the struggle for racial equality. We will look specifically at the events leading to and surrounding the “Atlanta Compromise” in 1895. In order to understand the differences in the philosophies of Washington and Dubois, it is useful to know something about their backgrounds.

Booker T. Washington, born a slave in 1856 in Franklin County, Virginia, could be described as a pragmatist. He was only able to attend school three months out of the year, with the remaining nine months spent working in coal mines. He developed the idea of Blacks becoming skilled tradesmen as a useful stepping-stone toward respect by the white majority and eventual full equality. Washington worked his way through Hampton Institute and helped found the Tuskeegee Institute, a trade school for blacks.

His essential strategy for the advancement of American Blacks was for them to achieve enhanced status as skilled tradesmen for the present, then using this status as a platform from which to reach for full equality later. Significantly, he argued for submission to the white majority so as not to offend the power elite. Though he preached appeasement and a “hands off” attitude toward politics, Washington has been accused of wielding imperious power over “his people” and of consorting with the white elite.

William Edward Burghardt DuBois, on the other hand, was more of an idealist. DuBois was born in Massachusetts in 1868, just after the end of the Civil War and the official end of slavery. A gifted scholar, formal education played a much greater role in DuBois’s life than it did in Washington’s. After becoming a Phi Beta Kappa graduate of Fisk and Harvard, he was the first Black to earn a Ph. D. from Harvard in 1895. DuBois wrote over 20 books and more than 100 scholarly articles on the historical and sociological nature of the Black experience.

He argued that an educated Black elite should lead Blacks to liberation by advancing a philosophical and intellectual offensive against racial discrimination. DuBois forwarded the argument that “The Negro problem was not and could not be kept distinct from other reform movements. . . ” DuBois “favored immediate social and political integration and the higher education of a Talented Tenth of the black population. His main interest was in the education of the group leader, the man who sets the ideas of the community where he lives. . . To this end, he organized the “Niagara movement,” a meeting of 29 Black business and professional men, which led to the formation of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP).

The crux of the struggle for the ideological center of the racial equality movement is perhaps best exemplified in Mr. DuBois’s influential The Souls of Black Folk. In it, he makes an impassioned argument for his vision of an educated Black elite. DuBois also describes his opposition to Booker T. Washington’s “Atlanta Compromise” as follows: “Mr. Washington represents in Negro thought the old attitude of adjustment and submission… ” According to DuBois, Washington broke the mold set by his predecessors: “Here, led by Remond, Nell, Wells- Brown, and Douglass, a new period of self-assertion and self- development dawned…. But Booker T. Washington arose as essentially the leader not of one race but of two–a compromiser between the South, the North, and the Negro. ”

DuBois reported that Blacks “resented, at first bitterly, signs of compromise which surrendered their civil and political rights, even though this was to be exchanged for larger chances of economic development. DuBois’s point and, according to him, the collective opinion of the majority of the Black community, was that self- respect was more important than any potential future economic benefits.

Before Washington’s conciliatory stance gained a foothold, “the assertion of the manhood rights of the Negro by himself was the main reliance. ” In other words, DuBois resented what he saw as Washington “selling” Black pride: “… Mr. Washington’s programme naturally takes an economic cast, becoming a gospel of Work and Money to such an extent as apparently almost completely to overshadow the higher aims of life. ”

The compromise included, in DuBois’s words, “that black people give up, at least for the present, three things,– “First, political power, Second, insistence on civil rights, Third, higher education of Negro youth,–and concentrate all their energies on industrial education, the accumulation of wealth, and the conciliation of the South. ” The final point comprised the centerpiece both of Washington’s strategy for the ultimate redemption of Black Americans and of DuBois’s condemnation of that strategy. Indeed, Washington backed up his assertions by founding the Tuskeegee Institute as a trade school for young Black men.

DuBois could not abide this type of appeasement. In his mind, this step was tantamount to the Black community telling the white community that, henceforth, Blacks would cease pretending to be equal to whites as human beings; rather, they would accept an overtly inferior social status as being worthy of maintaining the white majority’s physical world, but unworthy of true equality, of conducting socio-cultural discourse with the mainstream society. The paradox must have been maddening for both men, especially Mr. Washington.

He no doubt understood that, as a group, Blacks could never hope to progress to the point of equality from their position of abject poverty. Moreover, without skills, their hopes of escaping their economic inferiority were indeed scant. Washington’s plan for blacks to at least become skilled artisans and tradesmen must have seemed logical to him from the standpoint of improving the economic lot of the average Black man. At the same time, he must have realized that, by accepting inferiority as a de- facto condition for the entire race, he may have broken the black spirit forever.

In considering this matter, the writer is reminded of more recent events in American history–the affirmative action flap that occurred after Clarence Thomas’s appointment to the U. S. Supreme Court, for example. Mr. Thomas, clearly a beneficiary of affirmative action, announced that he was nonetheless opposed to it. His argument was that if he had not been eligible for benefits under affirmative action programs, he would have still achieved his current position in the inner circle of this society’s white power elite.

Similarly, Booker T. Washington enjoyed access to the power elite of his time, but one must wonder whether President Roosevelt, for example, in his interactions with Mr. Washington, was not merely using the situation for public relations value. “[Mr. Washington] was intimate’ with Roosevelt from 1901 to 1908. On the day Roosevelt took office, he invited Washington to the White House to advise him on political appointments of Negroes in the south. ” After all, he did not become a popular president by being oblivious to such political maneuvering. Perhaps Mr. DuBois was the more prescient visionary. Perhaps he understood what Mr. Washington did not, that after the critical historical momentum toward social acceptance that had been established prior to the late nineteenth century, if political pressure were not maintained, the cause of true equality would be lost forever.

Moreover, DuBois understood that equality would not be earned through appeasement. From our perspective of over 100 years, we must admit that he may have been right. For example, in the aftermath of the “Atlanta Massacre” of September 22, 1906 and a similar incident in Springfield, Illinois, “it was clear to almost all the players that the tide was running strongly in favor of protest and militancy.

For six days in August, 1908, a white mob, made up, the press said, of many of the town’s best citizens,’ surged through the streets of Springfield, Illinois, killing and wounding scores of Blacks and driving hundreds from the city. ” However, it later turned out that DuBois was considered to be too extreme in the other direction. For example, as the NAACP became more mainstream, it became increasingly conservative, and this did not please DuBois, who left the organization in 1934.

He returned later but was eventually shunned by Black leadership both inside and outside of the NAACP, especially after he voiced admiration for the USSR. In the political climate of the late 1940s and 1950s, any hint of a pro-communist attitude–black or white–was unwelcome in any group with a national political agenda. We can see, then, that neither Washington’s strategy of appeasement nor DuBois’s plan for an elite Black intelligentsia was to become wholly successful in elevating American Blacks to a position of equality.

However, perhaps it was more than the leadership of any one Black man that encouraged African Americans to demand a full measure of social and economic equality. Perhaps the fact that there was a public dialogue in itself did more to encourage Black equality than the philosophy of any one prominent Black man. After all, concepts such as equality are exactly that: concepts. As such, it up to each of us to decide how we see ourselves in relation to others; superior or inferior, equal or not equal, the choice is ultimately our own.

Black people in America

The struggle for social and economic equality of Black people in America has been long and slow. It is sometimes amazing that any progress has been made in the racial equality arena at all; every tentative step forward seems to be diluted by losses elsewhere. For every “Stacey Koons” that is convicted, there seems to be a Texaco executive waiting to send Blacks back to the past. Throughout the struggle for equal rights, there have been courageous Black leaders at the forefront of each discrete movement.

From early activists such as Frederick Douglass, Booker T. Washington, and W. E. B. DuBois, to 1960s civil rights leaders and radicals such as Martin Luther King, Malcolm X, and the Black Panthers, the progress that has been made toward full equality has resulted from the visionary leadership of these brave individuals. This does not imply, however, that there has ever been widespread agreement within the Black community on strategy or that the actions of prominent Black leaders have met with strong support from those who would benefit from these actions.

This report will examine the influence of two “early era” Black activists: Booker T. Washington and W. E. B. DuBois. Through an analysis of the ideological differences between these two men, the writer will argue that, although they disagreed over the direction of the struggle for equality, the differences between these two men actually enhanced the status of Black Americans in the struggle for racial equality. We will look specifically at the events leading to and surrounding the “Atlanta Compromise” in 1895. In order to understand the differences in the philosophies of Washington and Dubois, it is useful to know something about their backgrounds.

Booker T. Washington, born a slave in 1856 in Franklin County, Virginia, could be described as a pragmatist. He was only able to attend school three months out of the year, with the remaining nine months spent working in coal mines. He developed the idea of Blacks becoming skilled tradesmen as a useful stepping-stone toward respect by the white majority and eventual full equality. Washington worked his way through Hampton Institute and helped found the Tuskeegee Institute, a trade school for blacks.

His essential strategy for the advancement of American Blacks was for them to achieve enhanced status as skilled tradesmen for the present, then using this status as a platform from which to reach for full equality later. Significantly, he argued for submission to the white majority so as not to offend the power elite. Though he preached appeasement and a “hands off” attitude toward politics, Washington has been accused of wielding imperious power over “his people” and of consorting with the white elite.

William Edward Burghardt DuBois, on the other hand, was more of an idealist. DuBois was born in Massachusetts in 1868, just after the end of the Civil War and the official end of slavery. A gifted scholar, formal education played a much greater role in DuBois’s life than it did in Washington’s. After becoming a Phi Beta Kappa graduate of Fisk and Harvard, he was the first Black to earn a Ph. D. from Harvard in 1895. DuBois wrote over 20 books and more than 100 scholarly articles on the historical and sociological nature of the Black experience.

He argued that an educated Black elite should lead Blacks to liberation by advancing a philosophical and intellectual offensive against racial discrimination. DuBois forwarded the argument that “The Negro problem was not and could not be kept distinct from other reform movements. . . ” DuBois “favored immediate social and political integration and the higher education of a Talented Tenth of the black population. His main interest was in the education of the group leader, the man who sets the ideas of the community where he lives. . . To this end, he organized the “Niagara movement,” a meeting of 29 Black business and professional men, which led to the formation of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP).

The crux of the struggle for the ideological center of the racial equality movement is perhaps best exemplified in Mr. DuBois’s influential The Souls of Black Folk. In it, he makes an impassioned argument for his vision of an educated Black elite. DuBois also describes his opposition to Booker T. Washington’s “Atlanta Compromise” as follows: “Mr. Washington represents in Negro thought the old attitude of adjustment and submission… According to DuBois, Washington broke the mold set by his predecessors:

“Here, led by Remond, Nell, Wells- Brown, and Douglass, a new period of self-assertion and self- development dawned…. But Booker T. Washington arose as essentially the leader not of one race but of two–a compromiser between the South, the North, and the Negro. ” DuBois reported that Blacks “resented, at first bitterly, signs of compromise which surrendered their civil and political rights, even though this was to be exchanged for larger chances of economic development.

DuBois’s point and, according to him, the collective opinion of the majority of the Black community, was that self- respect was more important than any potential future economic benefits. Before Washington’s conciliatory stance gained a foothold, “the assertion of the manhood rights of the Negro by himself was the main reliance. ” I….. n other words, DuBois resented what he saw as Washington “selling” Black pride: “… Mr. Washington’s programme naturally takes an economic cast, becoming a gospel of Work and Money to such an extent as apparently almost completely to overshadow the higher aims of life.

The compromise included, in DuBois’s words, “that black people give up, at least for the present, three things,– “First, political power, Second, insistence on civil rights, Third, higher education of Negro youth,–and concentrate all their energies on industrial education, the accumulation of wealth, and the conciliation of the South. ” The final point comprised the centerpiece both of Washington’s strategy for the ultimate redemption of Black Americans and of DuBois’s condemnation of that strategy. Indeed, Washington backed up his assertions by founding the Tuskeegee Institute as a trade school for young Black men.

DuBois could not abide this type of appeasement. In his mind, this step was tantamount to the Black community telling the white community that, henceforth, Blacks would cease pretending to be equal to whites as human beings; rather, they would accept an overtly inferior social status as being worthy of maintaining the white majority’s physical world, but unworthy of true equality, of conducting socio-cultural discourse with the mainstream society. The paradox must have been maddening for both men, especially Mr. Washington.

He no doubt understood that, as a group, Blacks could never hope to progress to the point of equality from their position of abject poverty. Moreover, without skills, their hopes of escaping their economic inferiority were indeed scant. Washington’s plan for blacks to at least become skilled artisans and tradesmen must have seemed logical to him from the standpoint of improving the economic lot of the average Black man. At the same time, he must have realized that, by accepting inferiority as a de- facto condition for the entire race, he may have broken the black spirit forever.

In considering this matter, the writer is reminded of more recent events in American history–the affirmative action flap that occurred after Clarence Thomas’s appointment to the U. S. Supreme Court, for example. Mr. Thomas, clearly a beneficiary of affirmative action, announced that he was nonetheless opposed to it. His argument was that if he had not been eligible for benefits under affirmative action programs, he would have still achieved his current position in the inner circle of this society’s white power elite.

Similarly, Booker T. Washington enjoyed access to the power elite of his time, but one must wonder whether President Roosevelt, for example, in his interactions with Mr. Washington, was not merely using the situation for public relations value. “[Mr. Washington] was intimate’ with Roosevelt from 1901 to 1908. On the day Roosevelt took office, he invited Washington to the White House to advise him on political appointments of Negroes in the south. ” After all, he did not become a popular president by being oblivious to such political maneuvering. Perhaps Mr. DuBois was the more prescient visionary.

Perhaps he understood what Mr. Washington did not, that after the critical historical momentum toward social acceptance that had been established prior to the late nineteenth century, if political pressure were not maintained, the cause of true equality would be lost forever. Moreover, DuBois understood that equality would not be earned through appeasement. From our perspective of over 100 years, we must admit that he may have been right.

For example, in the aftermath of the “Atlanta Massacre” of September 22, 1906 and a similar incident in Springfield, Illinois, “it was clear to almost all the players that the tide was running strongly in favor of protest and militancy. For six days in August, 1908, a white mob, made up, the press said, of many of the town’s best citizens,’ surged through the streets of Springfield, Illinois, killing and wounding scores of Blacks and driving hundreds from the city. ” However, it later turned out that DuBois was considered to be too extreme in the other direction. For example, as the NAACP became more mainstream, it became increasingly conservative, and this did not please DuBois, who left the organization in 1934.

He returned later but was eventually shunned by Black leadership both inside and outside of the NAACP, especially after he voiced admiration for the USSR. In the political climate of the late 1940s and 1950s, any hint of a pro-communist attitude–black or white–was unwelcome in any group with a national political agenda. We can see, then, that neither Washington’s strategy of appeasement nor DuBois’s plan for an elite Black intelligentsia was to become wholly successful in elevating American Blacks to a position of equality.

However, perhaps it was more than the leadership of any one Black man that encouraged African Americans to demand a full measure of social and economic equality. Perhaps the fact that there was a public dialogue in itself did more to encourage Black equality than the philosophy of any one prominent Black man. After all, concepts such as equality are exactly that: concepts. As such, it up to each of us to decide how we see ourselves in relation to others; superior or inferior, equal or not equal, the choice is ultimately our own.

The National Association of the Advancement of Colored People

Almost 500,000 Americans of all races are members of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP), the largest civil rights organization in the world and probably the largest secular citizens action agency in the nation. Founded in 1909, the NAACP is the oldest civil rights organization as well as the most powerful and the most respected today. The NAACP is the national spokesperson for black Americans and other minorities, and for those who support civil rights objectives in America.

Organized in virtually every city and town where black Americans reside, the NAACP both articulates the grievances of black Americans and protects their rights by whatever legal means necessary (Join the NAACP). Many manners are used by the NAACP to accomplish their policy goals. Three such manners are grassroots activism, lobbying, and educating. Marches, protests, canvassing, phone calls, and demonstrations are only a few devices used by the NAACP in their fight for equal rights (McBride).

In October 1998, NAACP President and CEO Kweisi Mfume and eighteen other activists were arrested during a mass demonstration to protest the “shameful and hypocritical record” of the Supreme Court Justices in hiring minority clerks. The protest was held in front of the U. S. Supreme Court in Washington, D. C. , with the crowd shouting “No justice, no peace” (“Activists Arrested”). The Justices up to that point had hired only seven black Americans out of 428 clerks.

Groups that participated in the demonstration included the National Bar Association, the United Auto Workers, the National Organization for Women, as well as many others (“Activists Arrested”). Mfume also participated in a protest rally March 18, 1999, in front of New York City’s Police Headquarters to decry the police killing of 22-year-old Amadou Diallo, an unarmed immigrant, the previous month. Mfume was expecting “direct, immediate action by the White House, the U. S. Justice Department and the NY Mayor’s Office” (“NY Protest”).

On November 9, 1999, Florida Governor Jeb Bush “empowered the Board of Regents and the Florida Legislature to do away with Affirmative Action” with the proposal of the One Florida Initiative (Haggard). A coalition of civil rights, labor, women’s rights, federal and state legislators, and religious leaders called for a March on Tallahassee in order to demonstrate the amount of support that affirmative action has in the state. This is only done following a 25-hour sit-in led by Florida State Senator Kendrick Meek and Representative Tony Hill January 18-19, 2000.

That sit-in ended when Governor Bush agreed to three public hearings on his One Florida Initiative (Haggard). For Election Day 2000, the Data Retrieval Team (DART) became foot canvassers. This team was composed of volunteers who walked from house to house putting up door hangers/sample ballots and trying to influence the people at the doors to vote (“Election”). The homes targeted were not only those of black Americans, but of other minorities as well (Hilary).

Since 1914, the NAACP Legislative Report Card has functioned as a presentation of significant civil rights votes taken in the United States Senate and the United States House of Representatives. This Report Card is intended to supply citizens with insight into the general voting habits of their congressional representatives and delegations. The latest edition contains votes taken from the 106th Congress through July 10, 2000. The Report Card provides legislation descriptions from both Houses, whether it passed or failed, and whether the NAACP agreed with or opposed the legislation.

It also lists all Senators and Representatives, whether they voted for or against the NAACP position on legislation, and a grade based on the percentage of percentage of votes in agreement with the NAACP. Not surprisingly, most Democrats got A’s or B’s, and Republicans got D’s or F’s. The NAACP Washington Bureau, the department that specializes in lobbying, is in charge of this Legislative Report Card (Hilary). Since becoming the bureau director in 1997, Hilary Shelton has been responsible for advocating the NAACP agenda in Congress.

The Bureau releases testimony with reference to hearings on certain bills. For example, they published Harold McDougall’s testimony at a hearing about including multiracial categories in the United States Census. Shelton has been pushing Congress to pass the Traffic Stops Statistics Study Act introduced by Representative John Conyers (D-MI) as the first step to produce a “much-needed study” into the problem of police stopping drivers only because they are black Americans or some other ethnic minority (Hilary).

He calls them “Driving While Black (DWB)” statistics (Hilary). One of the most recent example of lobbying done by the NAACP is the economic sanctions against South Carolina began January 1, 2000. Until the Confederate battle flag was removed from atop the Statehouse, removed from within the House and Senate Chambers, and relegated to a place of historical context only, the NAACP had its members and supporters—along with corporations, religious, and civic organizations—postpone or relocate vacations, family reunions, meetings, conventions, or workshops in the state.

The Association feels that the flag represents “one of the most reprehensible aspects of American history” (Hilary). After losing well over $100 million in the tourism industry alone, the Confederate flag was moved, from the location where it had been since 1962, to an area near the South Carolina Confederate Soldiers Monument (McBride). After the hateful July 20, 2000 murder of Arthur “J. R. ” Warren, an African-American, gay West Virginia resident, Hilary Shelton as well as Warren’s parents and a coalition of civil rights groups, met with U. S. Justice Department officials in Washington, D. C. Shelton spoke in strong favor of the Hate Crimes Prevention Act, which suggests stronger penalties for persons who willfully injure anyone because of his or her race, color, religion, gender, national origin, or sexual orientation.

As of now, the Hate Crimes Prevention Act is in serious jeopardy of being eliminated from the final version of the Department of Defense Appropriations bill. The local NAACP branch in West Virginia continues to monitor the case as well as work with the Warren family.

The hearings for the two teenagers accused of the murder are not scheduled until late November and early December 2000 (Hilary). The NAACP educates the public on issues such as voter empowerment, health, labor, minority-owned housing, youth and college, and economic development, as well as others. The Association informs citizens through town hall meetings, conventions and conferences, special meetings, and newsletters on issues relevant to the minority community. Because of the NAACP’s voter empowerment efforts, history was made in Morgan City, Louisiana with the Morgan City Get out the Vote (GOTV) Project.

During local elections on October 7, 2000, 80% of all registered black America voters in Morgan City made their voices heard. William Bradford, Jr. became the first African-American elected official since reconstruction (McBride). On September 12, 2000, in Selma, Alabama, the NAACP held its breath and waited to find out if its efforts would override the efforts of whites in the city to stop black Americans from voting in that day’s special election that pitted black businessman James Perkins against Mayor Joe Smitherman, a former segregationist who had played a role in the hostility and bloodshed Selma had so famously experienced in 1965.

Perkins won, becoming the first black American mayor for Selma. Kweisi Mfume stressed the importance of registering and voting during an unprecedented radio broadcast of the Tom Joyner Morning Show (TJMS). The voter empowerment messages delivered throughout the four-hour, “all-talk” broadcast galvanized more than 10,000 listeners nationwide to call the toll-free NAACP Voter Empowerment 2000 Hotline (1-866-YES-VOTE) to register to vote (McBride).

In a collaborative effort, the NAACP, the National Organization of Black Law Enforcement Executives (NOBLE), and Allstate Insurance Company have joined together to develop “The Law and You: Guidelines for Interacting with Law Enforcement Officials. ” The pamphlet offers suggested procedures to follow if someone—mainly an adolescent—is stopped by a police officer or law enforcement official, regardless of the reason. The suggestions are to be used as guidelines until professional legal advice and guidance can be obtained (“Law and You”).

The Legal Department of the NAACP provides legal advice and representation to the more than 2,000 state, local, youth, and college affiliations of the Association. The Department also provides research, pleadings, briefs, and other legal resources to litigants through affiliates and a network of cooperating attorneys who help with NAACP litigation (McBride). The NAACP Back-To-School/Stay-In-School (BTS/SIS) Program is an incentive-based program seeking the retention and graduation of at-risk youth, mainly black Americans and other minorities.

The aim of the program is to boost the number of skilled, knowledgeable youth graduating from high school by providing them with mentoring, tutoring, remedial assistance, and incentives for maintaining regular attendance, thus creating a more pleasant attitude toward education. Encouragement by way of cultural and extra curricular activities is also offered to increase self-worth, cultural awareness, and community service (McBride). These are only a couple of the programs the NAACP uses to education the public.

Although not every action that the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People takes results in the passing of a new bill, every action taken does effectively lift the voice of each member so that it may be heard. By interacting directly with the community, by helping the public to understand better what is happening with the nation, and by making the people more knowledgeable on the issues that are important to them, the NAACP proves to be an interest group that is successful in winning its battles, big and small, no matter how long, hard, or costly the fight may be.

African American Conductors

Conducting, as we know it today is less than two centuries old. 1 On the other hand time beating; a way of holding players and/or singers together, has been around for several centuries. 1 In the absence of written notation, the leader’s hands indicated the direction of the group. As polyphony entered the musical picture, it became essential that the beats be on target. Interpretation at the time was of no importance. It has been indicated through engravings that in addition to hands, leaders of instrumental and vocal forces utilized a foot, a stick, a pendulum, a handkerchief, or maybe even a piece of paper.

In the seventeenth century the element of interpretation entered the music scene, enhancing the role of the leader greatly. This freedom of interpretation increased the conductors responsibility, although no universal practices existed. Gradually the method of time beating approached uniformity; as meters became established, so did the conductors movements. 1 In the eighteenth century two conductors were often used for operas. 1 One conductor would direct the singers and the other conductor would direct the orchestra.

On occasion there were three directors. The principle or lead violinist would often be the lead director, followed by the keyboard player and a conductor. 1 Orchestras without conductors also existed during this period, a tradition still continued today in chamber orchestras. 1 Gradually the lead violinist director became more important than any other type of director transforming himself into lead conductor. 1 The violinist would lead the orchestra by using the violin bow to conduct in the same manner that the baton would be used later.

By the early period of the nineteenth century, about the time the size of the orchestra had expanded tremendously, a conductor had become a fixture. This paper will inform the reader on a brief history of conductors in general, the importance of a conductor, the history of black conductors, important and revolutionary black conductors, the future and popularity of black conductors, and how black conductors influenced the art of conducting. The art of conducting goes back centuries. It is hard to place an exact date and assign a specific person the honor of being the first conductor.

However, an Italian-born, French-educated Jean Baptiste Lully (1632-1687) is generally designated as being the first important conductor in the history of music. 1 He was director of music for Louis the Fourteenth of France. Lully taught his men a uniform manner of bowing, developed orchestral discipline, and achieved a rhythmic precision unknown till then. 1 He became a model for all conductors of Europe to follow. German composer Christopher Willibald Gluck (1714-1787) is seen as being the first great modern conductor.

Johann Frederick Reichardt (1752-1814), German composer and conductor was believed to be the first to eliminate the keyboard and conduct standing up. 1 Felix Mendelssohn (1809-1847) often referred to as the first real conductor, fostered precision and exact realization of the composers score. 1 Franz Liszt (1811-1886), initiated interpretation by facial expressions and gestures. 1Finally Richard Wagner in 1869, wrote On Conducting, which was the first book devoted exclusively to the interpretive aspect of the art of conducting. 1 A conductor is an individual who guides a unique aggregation of instrumentalist.

Requirements of a successful conductor are; enormous authority, mastery of conducting mechanics, extensive knowledge, uncanny powers of communication, and a profound perception of music’s inner meaning. 1 A conductor is one who has the ability to communicate his ideas about a composition through his instrument, which is the orchestra. A conductor can do as he pleases as long as he justifies his actions. Also, the conductor illustrates a technical bond between himself and the orchestra. Furthermore, the conductor is the most visible individual associated with the orchestra making his actions visible to all.

Also the personality of the conductor plays a major role in how the orchestra is conducted. The conductor is a communicator of musical ideas, with the responsibility of serving the music. In all, a conductor must be a born leader who understands the responsibilities of leadership and is never deluded with a sense of absolute power. Black conductors have a very short history compared to the rest of the conducting world. There are many reasons why this is. For one, black people were held to slavery and looked down upon until the late 1800’s. Oral tradition was the common African tradition.

They had little education and most of the music recorded was that of song bearing very few instruments if any. Classical music just wasn’t part of their culture. Singers were the first to enter the music world. When slavery was abolished jazz, blues, and gospel became the major interest of most black folk. Entering the classical music society was expensive and risky. For centuries white males had been conducting white orchestras. The thought of a black orchestrial musician much less conductor was abominable. Everything changed when Dean Dixon was born on January 10, 1915 in New York City.

At the age of three Deans mother, McClara Dean Ralston Dixon bought him a violin and scheduled classes three days a week. 2 He immediately began to love music. He attended Carnegie Hall Events at the age of five. 2 His teachers at school discouraged him to pursue a career in classical music, for the idea wasn’t practical at the time. In 1932, he graduated from high school and with the help of his music teacher he was admitted to The Julliard School based on his violin capabilities. 2 In 1936 he received his B. S. degree and went on to Columbia were he received his M. A. degree.

At the Julliard school he successfully auditioned for a graduate fellowship in conducting. 2 Also in 1932, he successfully conducted his first orchestra. In a short time the Dean Dixon Symphony Orchestra consisted of seventy musicians. 2 He taught private violin and piano lessons for money and in 1938 caught a break when he composed his first professional orchestra. 2 Soon after in 1941, Eleanor Roosevelt arranged a concert for his orchestra at Hecksher Theatre. 2 He drew a huge crowd and caught the attention of the music director of NBC. He was contracted shortly after to direct and conduct NBC Symphony Orchestra.

His career and persona became electrified. He had nation wide popularity, for he was the first black conductor in the history of classical music, and he had great talent. In the next few years he went on to conduct the Philadelphia Orchestra, and The Boston Symphony Orchestra. 2 In 1949 he was invited to conduct concerts in Paris. 2 During the next few years he led 32 concerts in 9 countries. 2 In 1953, he became resident conductor of the Goteborg (Sweden) Symphony. 2He stayed in Sweden until 1961 when he moved to Germany to conduct the Hesse Radio Symphony Orchestra in Frankfurt.

In 1967, Dixon retired and came back to America. On November 4, 1976 Dean Dixon died of heart trouble. 2 He died with the achievement of four awards (Rosenwald Fellowship, ASCAP award, Newspaper Guild Page One Award, and the Alice M. Ditson Award as Outstanding Conductor of the Year, in 1948). 2 His orchestras were endorsed by such prominent musical personalities as Yedudi, Menuhin, Leonard Bernstein, Aaron Copland, Bruno Walter, and Oscar Hammerstein. 2 Critics raved about him after his death. Almost every magazine and newspaper in the country had something good to say about him.

He was a humble man who helped his community by teaching kids the importance of music, by giving to charity, and by doing free lessons. He opened a door no one ever thought possible; he showed the world a black man could be a magnificent musician and conductor. He paved the way for many to follow in his footsteps. Another pioneer in the art of conducting was a man by the name of Henry Lewis. At the age of twenty-eight Lewis became the first black conductor to lead a major symphony orchestra in a home-based, regular subscription concert.

Lewis was born about the time Dixon graduated High School, October 16, 1932 in Los Angeles. Despite the age difference, Lewis practically matched Dixon with his impact on the music world. Lewis emerged as a trailblazer for black musicians, when at the age of sixteen he auditioned successfully for a double bass position in the Los Angeles Philharmonic. 3 He became the youngest and first black musician to join the ranks of such a prestigious group. Furthermore, he went on to be the first black music director of a professional American orchestra, and the first black conductor at the Metropolitan Opera.

Lewis grew up in a relatively poor environment. At the age of five he started piano lessons and went on to try many other orchestral instruments before turning to the double bass. 4 He was forced into playing the bass, for it was the only way he could play in his school orchestra. He began conducting in junior high: performing “Grand March” from “Aida” on graduation day. 4 Lewis’s bass talent stemmed from Herman Reinshagen, who came to Los Angeles after many years of playing for the New York Philharmonic. 4 Reinshagen guided Lewis’s development as a virtuoso bass player and solo recitalist.

After his success with the Los Angeles Philharmonic he received a scholarship to the University of Southern California. His success soared until he was drafted in 1955, into the Seventh Army Symphony as bass player and conductor. He traveled Europe playing over one hundred live performances, averaging about three to four a week. 4 Upon returning home in 1961, Lewis made his subscription concert debut with the Los Angeles Philharmonic when the guest conductor fell ill. 4 He was an instant hit and soon thereafter, Lewis accepted an associate conductors position with the Orchestra.

He led the orchestra throughout California and Europe. He diversified his talent by conducting with the San Francisco Opera, as well as the Metropolitan opera in New York. On tour in the U. S. and Japan Lewis had numerous performances. 4 In 1968, Lewis was appointed music director of the New Jersey Symphony Orchestra. In eight years. 4 In eight years he rebuilt the orchestra from a somewhat mediocre ensemble to a remarkable professional, contract orchestra. 4 He performed over 125 concerts a season in and out of state. 4 At the age of 63 Lewis suffered a heart attack.

He ended his career with over 60 guest conductor and opera performances at various popular cities in the U. S and around the world. 4 He was awarded key to the city of Newark, New Jersey as well as a Grammy. 4 Also, he made recordings with three different companies, had major appointments to nine different musical positions including opera and orchestra becoming the first black to do so. His major recordings include Meyerbeer’s “Le Prophete,” Masenet’s “La Navarraise,” and award winning “Carmen Jones” by Oscar Hammerstein.

His accomplishments are unparallel to any other black conductor. Lewis and Dixon together shocked the world. Both breaking new barriers, they showed America and the world that Blacks could be magnificent conductors. The Press gave them publicity never thought possible, showing the public a new type of conductor astir from the traditional European. Together they started a revolution in music. They became the two major building blocks for other black conductors and musicians to build on. The steep climb for black classical musicians was over.

No longer was the Symphony Orchestra a closed society, no longer was it assumed to be an organization for white people. Dixon and Lewis started it all, but many more fabulous conductors would follow. Some of the leading maestros to follow included James DePriest, Micheal Morgan, Leslie Dunner, Paul Freeman, Raymond Harvey, Isaiah Jackson, William Henry Curry, Willie Anthony Waters, and de Coteau. 5 All these conductors have made a major impact on conductors and music in the U. S. and all over the world. It was estimated that there are over 20 Black music directors or staff conductors in the U.

S. , more than ever before. Many new and upcoming black conductors look to find a comfortable place in the society of Orchestral Symphonies and Opera. The History of Black Conductors is less than 100 years old. In such a short time span Blacks have taken great strides in integrating themselves in a society which once was all white. Talent plays a major factor in their success. Compared to other ethnic groups and women, black men have taken great strides in the art of conducting. There is still much to do; Black conductors must become ambassadors to the community.

They must assist in the creation of places where black children can learn instruments and parents can be encouraged to attend concerts with their children. Only a strong effort will ensure more black members of the orchestra, more blacks in the audience, more blacks as orchestra managers and executive directors, and more black conductors on the podiums of U. S. orchestras. Dixon and Lewis are the protegees of a promising future for black conductors. They and many other black conductors have pushed to enter the 20th century now black conductors must establish themselves in the 21st century.