The Impactful Literature of African Americans and Women
African Americans and American women have been oppressed by the opinions and laws of white men since the drafting of the Constitution of the United States. African Americans and American women’s most prevalent contributions exist in literature and culture, most predominately in the works of Langston Hughe’s “I, Too,” Zora Neale Hurston’s, “How It Feels To Be Colored Me,” Bontemp’s, “A Black Man Talks of Reaping,” and Alice Walker’s, “In Search of our Mothers’ Gardens.” African Americans and American women face numerous challenges in securing themselves as cultural forces in society, and although progress has been slow, American literature would not be where it is today without the help of many authors.
Many writers aspire to gain recognition among the many other authors that submit work. African Americans and American women, however, stand alone among the other countless writers. Since the implementation of the Constitution, women have been restricted from equality in society. A recent study shows that globally, “women have fewer opportunities for economic participation than men, less access to basic and higher education, greater health and safety risks, and less political representation” (Corps 1). Status quo proves that women are not equal, and many men and other writers still strive to keep it that way. With the help of countless authors, readers finally see much of these authors works stand alone, and continue to impact every generation that has the chance to read it.
Racism has become embedded as a systematic force to oppress. In Langston Hughe’s poem “I, Too,” he focuses on African American identity within the white majority of America, and expresses the history of oppression on black people. Langston Hughe’s poem tells the story of oppression of America through the perspective of an African-American man and the hardships he endures. There is one dominant message in the poem that Hughes is promoting: that America needed help and still continues to look for that help. When this poem was published, it was at a particular time when throughout the South, people enforced racial segregation. Hughes writes he will still “sing America” (Hughes 1), even with all these harsh laws in place targeting his race. African Americans contributed to the foundation of America and deserve recognition among their fellow partners who accompanied them in the unity. In “I, Too,” it is clear that the kitchen where the story takes place is divided between whites and blacks, and Hughe’s saying “they’ll see how beautiful I am” (Hughe’s 16) was an attempt for equality between the races.
The struggle of accepting an individual regardless skin tone continues. In Zora Neale Hurston’s “How It Feels To Be Colored Me” there is inequality throughout. At the time this story was written, blacks were tortured, lynched, and killed, with many thinking they were next. The major point brought up in her story is how people of all races are similar to each other, just with different skin colors. In Hurston’s short story, she metaphorically uses colored bags to compare the different races. Hurston compares herself with other ethnic groups, as “ I [she] feels like a brown bag…against a wall in company with other bags, white, red, and yellow” (Hurston 3), using different color bags in contrast with other skin colors. The contents that are inside the bags present the person’s failures, achievements, and everything that occurred in that person’s life. Furthermore, Hurston writes, “On the ground before you is the jumble it held—so much like the jumble in the bags…they could be emptied, that all might be dumped in a single heap” (Hurston 8). Hurston is arguing that people should not be judged off the past because everyone is similar.
In a society, when someone works for something, they should reap the reward. In “A Black Man Talks of Reaping,” Arna Bontemp uses the metaphor of farming to express his feelings toward America. He believes the white majority have reaped the benefits that the black population harvested. In the poem, Bontemp compares the whites to “wind or fowl” (Bontemp 3), as they are everywhere and taking the benefits from African-Americans. The vast majority of African American’s felt this way, as the whites would “take away the grain…From Canada to Mexico” (Bontemp 5), having no gratitude towards the work that was put in by African America’s. Bontemp’s persuasive work portrays the inequality between African-Americans and whites, which ultimately destroyed the American society, and made countless people not receive equal recognition.
People grieve about things that have occurred in the past. In Alice Walker’s, “In Search of Our Mother’s Garden” the reader sees a young girl grieving about her mother’s past. It is clear what has been taken away from African Americans: their own dignity to live. The fact that slavery has been enforced has impacted the black majority greatly. Alice Walker talks about how her ancestors lives have been suppressed due to slavery and the harsh realities they lived through, such as slavery and inability to read literature. She says, “her [mother’s] day began sunup…and there was never a moment for her to sit down; never a time free from interruption” (Walker 1). Listening to her mother’s stories has an impact, “through years she has absorbed not only the stories, but of the matter in which she spoke in” (Walker 4). Alice Walker wrote this story to highlight the hardship that the black population had to endure. With many young artists writing back then, they were not allowed to publish literature, or even read work, just like the little girl’s grandmother in this story. Because of Hurston’s bravely, the ability to read about the hardships she witnessed back then are available.
African Americans and American women maintain a great impact on society. Today, the existence of inequality between men and women, and the attacks on racism still exist, but are not as bad as it used to be. Hughes, Bontemp, Walker, and Hurston still reassure the struggle and notify the reader within their works that racism and discrimination existed, and still exists. Without these writers, American literature would not be where it is today. The work we received helped society be diverse, and having all these brave women and African Americans retell everyday events help us see what life was really like back then. These writers helped contribute to the development of the 20th century and still influence the generation to this day.
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