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Propey Final Dissertation Doc

I would like to express my gratitude to the Midlands State University and the Department of
English and...
This research is an interrogation of how American civilization “annulled” and “transformed” lives
of Negroes ...
Table of contents page
Background of study 4
Aim 6
Justification of study 6
Research Methodology 6
Literature Review ...
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  1. 1. 1 ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS I would like to express my gratitude to the Midlands State University and the Department of English and Communication staff for their remarkable academic grooming. Special mention goes to my supervisor Dr. T.D. Javangwe. I say thank you for the daring and sometimes harsh constructive criticism. You challenged me to be original and believe in my abilities. I salute you for supervising this research, sir! Again special mention goes to my beloved family; my mother Ms Laurencia S. Ngwenya, grandmother Mrs. S.M Ngwenya, brothers, Progress Thabo Ngwenya, Gift Tinashe Musewe and Joachim Mthokozisi Sibanda for their prayers and unwavering support. To my mentor Mr. David Mnkandla and friends, I salute you for the faith and moral support you gave me right through my academic course. Special thanks go to the Lord Almighty who instilled in me the desire and determination to have purpose. DEDICATION I dedicate this research to my mother Ms. Laurencia Ngwenya and family who stood by me during my research period.
  2. 2. 2 i Abstract This research is an interrogation of how American civilization “annulled” and “transformed” lives of Negroes into “dead matter”. This study traced the main source of the Negroes problems to be emanating from slavery even well after it was abolished. Slavery left a mark in American society and its effects are traceable and evident in the relations that existed between whites and blacks. For the white man, the institution of slavery was a symbol of power and dominance over the Negro and through this power, the white man was able to control the lives of Negroes well into the twentieth century. Throughout the course of their lives, the Negro men and women had their lives stifled, confined and constricted. The reasons could be innumerable but the immediate ones show that the white man was driven by power and pride, and had to impose himself on the seemingly weak and vulnerable Negro to exhibit domination. Again, it was noted that along his journey of Negro conquest, the white man became a hypocrite defying morality and law to advance his desires. The American Declaration of Independence had observed that “all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain inalienable rights that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness”. In my research these rights were reflected to have been only exclusive to the white American society, and the Negro had no right to claim them perhaps because he was originally not “American”.
  3. 3. 3 ii Table of contents page Background of study 4 Aim 6 Justification of study 6 Research Methodology 6 Literature Review 7 Theoretical framework 16 Chapter Delineation 17 Chapter Two – Destroying the African, creation of a Beast 18 Slavery and its Effects in Roots 20 The physical disposition of slavery in Roots 21 The social and psychological effects of slavery in Roots 29 Chapter Three – The “Inequality of Races” 38 Racial prejudice and the isolated Negro 40 The meaning of being a Negro in 20th century America 52 Chapter Four –Negro Humanity under Siege – in Native Son 58 Racism 61 Social Segregation 62 Chapter Five – Conclusion 67 Definition of terms 69 Bibliography References 70
  4. 4. 4 CHAPTER ONE: INTRODUCTION Background of study Slavery offered an economic expansion opportunity for America, and Africa was turned to as the main source of supply of human labor. Slavery was instigated by the whites to gather human labor for the agriculture plantations that had opened up in the New World. Eric Williams, according to AJ, Merivale cited in a paper titled: Anti-Imperial Readings (2004) argued that slave labour was dearer if it could be procured for free; perhaps justifying the course taken by whites to invade Africa. Eric Williams (1944), according to Adam Smith cited in Anti-Imperial Readings (2004) was of the opinion that pride and love of power drove the white man to enter into human slavery. The question then is why the African? It must be stated that Spaniards claimed, in their voyages they had discovered that one Negro was worth four Indians, and it became natural that whites descended to Africa for an expedient procurement of Negroes. Frantz Fanon (1986), according to Malica Willie and Shermaine Joseph, in a paper; Introduction and Ch. 6 “The Negro and Psychopathology argues that “black is not a man” (p.8), a claim that was made by whites to justify their styles and tactics of handling the Negro. It is further stated that the Negro “…is rooted at the core of a universe from which he must be extricated” (p.8). This sort of thinking represents a feeling of pride and superiority by the white man. In setting off to conquer the Negro, the white man was convinced that he was better and superior than the Negro; hence there was nothing that could stop him from exploiting these people. On the other hand, according
  5. 5. 5 to Malica Willie and Shermaine Joseph, the Negro was desperate “to prove to the white man, at all costs, the richness of their thought, the equal value of their intellect.” (p.10) It must be stated right at the beginning that slavery was characterized by obnoxious violence targeted at the Negro and, after post-slavery and post-Reconstruction period, the Negro continued to suffer the effects of slavery, such as racial discrimination and segregation and social injustice, factors that contributed to his underachievement’s living him nullified and stifled. When one considers all these developments there is but no doubt that Patterson (1982) was correct to suggest that Negroes lives became “annulled” and “transformed” into “dead matter” the moment they came into contact with American civilization. Given the circumstances that prevailed, it became natural for whites and blacks to be deadlocked in a brawl for supremacy and self assertion against the powers and dominance of the other. For my second chapter I will look at Alex Haley’s, Roots which relates the story of Kunta Kinte, who is kidnapped as a teenager in Africa and sold into slavery. James Weldon Johnson’s, The Autobiography of the Ex-Colored Man will be considered in chapter three. It is a story which is informed by a protagonist who suffers from an identity crisis in post slavery America. Richard Wright’s, Native Son will be considered in chapter four. The novel describes the experiences of Bigger Thomas who resides in the North, born a free man, but somehow is frustrated and angered by racial segregation and lack of black development that is targeted at his race by American civilization. Chapter five will be a conclusive roundup of the research and its findings made in my textual analysis and how they relate to the research topic.
  6. 6. 6 Aim of Study This research will question how American civilization “annulled” and “transformed” the lives of Negroes into “dead matter”. In an effort to achieve my aim, an exploration of selected Afro American literary works will be made to find out the main source of the problem leading to the unfortunate predicament that Negroes found themselves caught up. Justification of study The literary works selected for this study give an account of the historical events as they transpired in American society. In this study I will focus on the institution of slavery and its effects in post- slavery and post-Reconstruction era in America. It must be understood that for Patterson (1982) to suggest that Negroes lives had been “annulled” and “transformed” into “dead matter” so much incidents had transpired between whites and blacks. It will be the duty of this research to find out the validity of these claims. Research Methodology Research methodology refers to the plan or strategy that will be used to achieve goals of the research. I have chosen to use qualitative research data collection methodology in the form of textual analysis. I will be using three texts, namely; Alex Haley’s, Roots (1976), James Weldon Johnson’s, The Autobiography of an Ex-colored Man (1912) and Richard Wright’s, Native Son (1940). These texts have been deliberately selected as they represent two different periods and experiences in American history. The research will apply both primary and secondary methods of data analysis. According to Taylor (1984:141) using the qualitative approach is the best way for the interpretation and analysis of primary
  7. 7. 7 and secondary resources, as the only option at this point that can assist the research in coming up with quality and accurate assumptions. The qualitative method will investigate the how part of decision making, not just what, why, where, and when. Forms of the data collected will include discussions, various secondary texts, and other online source materials. Myers (2009) says the qualitative research method is the best method for researching social and cultural phenomena, since it is concerned with understanding people and the social cultural contexts within which they live, why people behave as they do; their knowledge, attitudes, beliefs and fears. Taylor (1984) sees the interpretive method of research as a basic form which deals mostly with texts. This type of research will sorely rely on extensive reading of literature narratives and critical works; hence this will rest more on desk research, books from the library and the internet. In addition to the above named methodology an effective group discussion with students and supervisor will be carried out to guarantee the question of reliability among the narratives. The advantages of the qualitative methodology is that through carrying out group discussions this will enable me to learn about things that cannot be directly observed and would have been over looked. Literature review This section of the research has the mandate to show the extent to which American civilization is held responsible for having stifled the lives of Negroes to arouse those claims made by Patterson (1982) that lives were “annulled” and “transformed” into “dead matter”. To begin with, it should be stated that this section will endeavor to examine what has been said by other scholars in relation to American civilization’s role in stifling the lives of Negroes and
  8. 8. 8 reducing them to second class status. It should be noted that the institution of slavery and its legacy was behind the retrogression and nullification of the lives of Negroes during slavery and well after post-slavery and post-Reconstruction periods. It is a fact that through the institution of slavery whites and blacks came into contact. It becomes natural and fair to trace Patterson’s claims beginning with the period these two races came into contact. I will start by giving a brief of the American slavery and how it later came to be associated with the Negro. Eric Williams (1944), according to Merivale cited in a paper Anti-Imperialism Readings (2004) states that “slavery was an economic institution” (p.1), and again in the same paper, Gibbon Wakefield is cited mentioning that reasons for slavery “are economical” and concerned with “production” (p.3). It has to be stated that America aspired to flourish in agriculture given there were agricultural markets opening in the south and New World. It should be mentioned that the plantations in the New World required massive recruitment of labor; and the services offered by those in “indentured” service were inadequate. It should be noted that before the Negro indentured service was provided by poor whites, Aborigine people, Indians and some Chinese people. It became necessary for the Americans to shift their attention to Africa given the claims made by the Spanish who alleged that through their voyages they had discovered that “one Negro was equal to four Indians” in terms of strength and robust. The biggest difference between the slavery which “indentured” servants entered into and the one Negroes experienced is that “indentured” service was voluntary and rewarding whereas the one that involved Negroes was
  9. 9. 9 coerced labor and without rewards. It must be understood that whites regarded themselves highly placed and a superior race than the black race no wonder they administered force and violence to get the Negroes into work. It should be stated that the moment Negroes were forced into slavery their lives took a “transformation” for the worst. According to Malica Willie and Shermaine, they state it as a fact that whites considered themselves superior to blacks. It is against this background that whites resolved to impose their dominance over Negroes. When one imposes themselves on another and take total control of their victim it becomes natural they would dictate terms in the relationship. The relationship that existed between whites and blacks was that of the exploiter and the exploited, the white man as the former and the Negro, the latter. Eric Williams (1944), according to Adam Smith cited in a paper Anti-Imperialism Readings (2004) noted that it was pride and love of power in the white master that led to slavery. It should be noted that the greed of the white master created serious problems for the Negro. The problems which blacks came to face as a result of slavery and its effects include broken families, loss of identity, poverty, physical disability, injustices and inequality, discrimination and segregation. It should be noted that these historical incidents “annulled” the lives of Negroes and “transformed” them into “dead matter”. It must be stated that Eurocentric ideology held that a Negro by nature was genetically inferior and weak; and the white man was more powerful and superior. It must be stated that the conflict theory that has been adopted for this study does relate with the circumstances that prevailed at the time.
  10. 10. 10 The theory observes that the powerful in society impose their dominance and control of the weak thereby dictating terms and advance their views at the expense of the weak. It seems like America adopted Karl Marx (1818-1883) and Marx Weber (1864-1920) postulations whereby the powerful dominate and control the weak. It should be understood that the system was characterized by harsh treatment of the blacks which made them look less humans. In effort to discredit the person of the Negro, whites associated light skin with positive traits and dark skin with negative traits. It must be understood that it is through such convictions that whites thought of themselves as superior and blacks inferior. It follows such labels that Negroes were ill-treated and arm-twisted to act or live exactly the same way they had been described through those stereotypes that had been propagated about them. Most of the stereotypes which the white man spread about blacks were made to match animal behavior perhaps a suggestion that the Negro belonged to the animal species. Frantz Fanon (1986:159) noted that “the white man is convinced that the Negro is a beast”. This statement confirms the long felt convictions of the white man that he was different from this man and there was no way he could entertain any claims the two races could be equal. Again, the attitudes of the white man confirm that Negroes had to be “annulled” because they exhibited animal behavior hence they did not deserve to be treated like humans. The journey to being a slave for the Negro was callous and painful. It should be indicated that Negro slavery was justified and rationalized on racial differences. Earlier I indicated that the Negro
  11. 11. 11 was desired on the basis of his physical outlook and again he suffered humiliation and degrading as a result of his outlook. Parrish (1944:90) highlighted a common statement; “If you’re White, you’re right, If you’re black, get back”. It is evident that these lines show whites tendencies of racial discrimination based on color lines. It is logical then to state that whatever harsh treatment Negroes came face to face with was a result of the resentment by whites shown or captured in the abovementioned two lines. It becomes clear that the Negro was going to endure extreme working and living conditions under the authority of the white man. To further highlight the gravity of the Negroes suffering, Frederick Douglass (1845) stated in his autobiography that slave breakers like Mr. Covey worked their slaves so hard as if they were animals and in the process did not feed them enough; and never gave them time to rest. It must be observed that Douglass points out that Mr. Covey was a cruel man. These incidents are relative to Patterson’s contention because what is shown by the likes of Mr. Covey is that a Negro was not entitled to life’s basics. Mr. Covey deprived Negroes adequate food provision and rest; at the same time he expects that they give him their maximum effort. It is without doubt that any human who is subjected to such cruelty is bound to eventually breakdown physically, psychologically and socially. It has to be stated that a combination of these surely translate to show lives that had been “annulled” and turned into “dead matter” for the purposes of advancing the white man’s desires. Eric Williams (1944), according to Fernando Ortiz cited in Anti-Imperialism Readings (2004:5- 6), a total conquest of the slave was to “enslave not only his muscles but also his collective spirit.” It becomes apparent that a combination of the body and mind of the slave stood to be the stumbling
  12. 12. 12 block in “annulling” the Negro hence the white man had to tame both the mind and body in order to have total control of the slave. Douglass mentions that Mr. Covey was a reputable slave breaker and a man who could manage even the toughest of slaves. Mr. Covey can be taken to symbolize white civilization which has “annulled” lives of Negroes through his actions. It should be understood that when Mr. Covey starves, flogs and overworks his slaves without rest, he successfully “transforms” them into “dead matter” in the sense that they become tamed and none resilient like they had been before. Frederick Douglass, according to Foster (2011:143), suggested that blacks needed to retaliate with some kind of violence in order to cease white violence. It should be taken into cognizance that this was not a fight for superiority like the one staged by whites, but it is a struggle to evade eventual “annulment” and “transformation” to beasts. It should be noted that Frederick Douglass is inciting Negroes to stand up and fight for equality, fight against the stereotypes that “transformed” his humanity and dignity to that of a beast, barbarian, cannibal, pagan, rapist and inferior member whom Frantz Fanon (1986) has claimed; “…is rooted at the core of a universe from which he must be uprooted” (p.8). In the beginning of this section I highlighted that slavery was considered the main source of income for the American south. It should be noted that whites had been granted property rights by the feudal system and laws governing the state. It is through these rights that blacks experienced the most mind boggling and heart shuttering realities of slavery. It should be mentioned that if the whites were not flogging and torturing blacks in reminder of who was in power or driving them to work, they either forced themselves on black women or sought the services of a stud to copulate with these Negro women in order to multiply slave numbers.
  13. 13. 13 Frederic Bancroft (1957) noted that slave rearing “became the source of the largest and often the only regular profit making”. The idea of economic prosperity seemed to have overwhelmed Thomas Jefferson and made him forget that he had a mandate to protect the rights of these Negroes as stated by the Declaration. Flexner (1972) notes that the idea of breeding humans for profit was a welcome move which he sounded to brag about to a white overseer; “I consider the labor of a breeding woman as no object, and that a child raised every two years is of more profit than the crop” (p.447). To further expose his attitude and undermine of Negroes as inferior beings, Jefferson dismissed the idea of racial equality between whites and blacks. It is shown that he wrote unfairly on black intellectual competency were he stated that blacks in; “reason are much inferior”, and in imagination they are dull, tasteless, and anomalous” (p.195). It must be stated that the laws that granted whites property rights were crafted to protect American whites from widespread condemnation on their actions by the northerners and abolishment movements. It should be noted that those children born in slavery like Kizzy, Chicken George took the status of the mother and would remain slaves for the rest of their lives. Again it has to be understood that these laws constricted and confined the Negroes lives to servitude, a clear testimony that they were as good as “dead matter”. These slave children had been robbed off their freedom before they were even born. The only thing that Negroes lived for was to tend the master’s fields, raise and cook for his family and run errands on his behalf only for him to get rewarded. Based on such evidence, it cannot be contested that Negroes lives had been “annulled” and “transformed”.
  14. 14. 14 The fact that Negroes remained private property, whites had the right to do as they pleased. Dumas Marlone (1962:207) noted that in 1784-1794, Thomas Jefferson sold over fifty African slaves in an effort to maintain his lavish life style. It must be noted that people like Jefferson did not value the Negroes lives. Jefferson made it a point that he could not release his slaves until he had cleared off his debts an indication that a black man was only important if he commanded good value in the slave market besides that there was no reason to keep him. Slavery had robbed Negroes their human rights and condemned them to the status of a non-being. Sidney Kaplan (1973:11) captures a moment were agitated Negroes register their grievances against white oppression. He notes; “We have no Wives! No Children! We have no City! No Country!” This is a lamentation of a people that has been stripped their pursuit of happiness and had their lives nullified. It is felt in the above line that these people are calling for equality and freedom to “pursue happiness” and raise their own families. The appropriation of property rights by the whites gave them power to do as they pleased and one of the ways whites used to express their latest privileges was through selling some of their slaves as shown in Roots, a case of Kunta, Kizzy and Chicken George’s family. It has to be stated that even statesman like George Washington participated in halting rights of slaves which they were meant to protect and guard jealously as a way of upholding the American Declaration of Independence and presidential public oath of serving and protecting the state. Flexner (1972) points that Washington was a harsh master who loathed the idea of his slaves getting liberties and it is believed that in his anger at one of the slaves he wrote a letter to one Captain Josiah Thompson stating;
  15. 15. 15 “Sir, with this letter comes a Negro (Tom) which I beg the favor of you to sell, in any of the Islands you may go to, for whatever he’ll fetch…asking in return several commodities including rum, limes, and molasses.” (p.114) It must be mentioned that Washington regarded his slaves and their lives so cheaply considering that he traded one of his slaves for liquor supplies. The white man’s attitude towards the Negroes life was so grave and this was shown by the actions of high profile people such as Washington and Jefferson. Jefferson was a hypocrite and a human monger. Wood (1993:8-9) states that in a period of ten years from 1784-1794, Jefferson had sold over 161 slaves. It must be mentioned that the Negroes “life” and “happiness” meant nothing to his kind so long as they profited. It should be stated that Negroes lived in fear never knowing when ones turn would come for them to be sold away. It should be stated that this unease and insecurity had a psychological effect on the life of a Negro because transfer from one plantation to another came unannounced. With all these issues in mind, this study will attempt at exposing the ways in which white America managed nullify and stifle the lives of Negroes as purported in the topic of this study. This will be done through thorough analysis of the chosen texts. Theoretical Framework This study is largely informed by the conflict theory. The theory’s major concern is about the struggles in society between different groups of people. The belief is that the powerful or superior in society tend to dictate terms to the weak and powerless. According to the New World
  16. 16. 16 Encyclopedia, the reasons for these struggles or clashes are innumerable. It should be understood that those powerful individual participants and his group fight to maximize their control, while the powerless fight to re-establish their dignity and equality which both, in a way contribute to social change within a society. The theory was chiefly expounded by Karl Marx (1818-1883) and developed by Marx Weber. Karl Marx was concerned about the material struggles between capitalists and workers, whereby the powerful exploit the weak to advance and protect their interests. Later, Marx Weber developed the theory making it usefully ambiguous for its application to innumerable situations. In light of this study, it can be said that this theory promoted the idea that the white American race was superior to blacks, and therefore, destined to rule over them. This theory will assist in exposing the everyday struggles of the Negro race under the dominance and control of the white system. It will be shown through the analysis of the selected texts how the white man managed to constrict; confine and “transform” the Negro into a weaker human being and inferior race and hence into “dead matter”. Chapter Delineation Introduction
  17. 17. 17 Chapter 1 will consist of the background to the study, aim and objectives, justification of the study, research methodology, literature review, as well as the theoretical framework. Chapter 2 titled “Destroying the African, creation of a Beast: slavery and its effects in Roots” will be an analysis of Alex Haley’s, Roots - The Saga of an American Family in relation to the topic. The chapter will be divided into three subtitles which are: Slavery and its Effects in Roots; The Physical disposition of slavery in Roots and; The Social and Psychological effects of slavery in Roots. Chapter 3 titled The “Inequality of Races” will be an analysis of James Weldon Johnson’s The Autobiography of an Ex-Colored Man. The main thrust of this chapter will be to examine the racial prejudice and how Negroes were isolated and The meaning of being a Negro in America. Chapter 4 titled Racism and Oppression; and Social Segregation will be an analysis of Richard Wright’s Native Son. The chapter will be divided into two subtitles, Racism and Oppression; and Social Segregation. Chapter 5 will be the conclusion to the research and a sum up of the four chapter’s and recommendations of this research. CHAPTER TWO: “Destroying the African, creation of a Beast: slavery and its Effects in Roots.” INTRODUCTION
  18. 18. 18 In the previous chapter, slavery was identified to have been the main source of the Negroes problem. It was stated that through slavery the Negro lost his civil liberties, human dignity and the right to determine his destiny. I noted that for the white man to conquer the spirit of the Negro, he had to dominate the physical body, the psychology and control his social life. I decided to focus my discussion on these three attributes because I believe that is the core of the human spirit. In this current chapter I will examine Alex Haley’s Roots with an intention to expose the hypocrisy and violent nature of slavery and how it “annulled” the lives of Negroes “transforming” Negroes into “dead matter.” The text is an enormous saga of a Negro’s plight under slavery. It is shown that blacks were reduced to second class citizens and in the process stripped of their human dignity. It should be mentioned that through slavery these Negro’s were emasculated physically, socially, economically and psychologically. The question that this chapter will want to answer is how did the white man then destroy the African and create a beast? Alex Haley was born in Ithaca, New York, on August 11, 1921. He was the eldest of three brothers and a sister. Haley lived with his family in Henning, Tennessee. His father was a professor of Agriculture at Alabama A & M University. The younger Haley always spoke proudly of his father and the obstacles of racism he had overcome. It is when he was serving in the Pacific theater of operations that he taught himself the craft of writing stories. That is when his illustrious career of writing fully blossomed. He was associated with publications such as Playboy, The Autobiography of Malcom X (1965), Super Fly T.NT (a screen play film) and the most famed Roots (1976). Haley died in the late 1970s in Seattle, Washington of a heart attack.
  19. 19. 19 The narrative is a story of Kunta Kinte; a sixteen year old youth who is torn from his homeland and brought in torment and anguish to America to live as a slave. Kunta Kinte’s experiences and those of other blacks became nightmarish throughout their lives. The white masters employed violence to impress his dominance and control over the Negro. The torment and anguish that Negroes were put through was felt physically, socially, economically and psychologically. Kunta attempted to escape slavery on three occasions and in his fourth attempt he was captured and his foot was cut half. He was sold to another plantation where he met the Fiddler who taught him English. Kunta had the name Toby imposed on him but he vehemently refuted it in preference of his African one, Kunta Kinte. He met Bell, a slave cook who turned out later to be his wife and the mother of his daughter, Kizzy. Kunta, now a family man, abandoned his long held thoughts of escape and decided to settle down and devoted his time to raising his family and teach his daughter Kizzy sounds of his Mandika language and tales of his African ancestry. Kizzy was later separated from her parents at age fifteen and sold to a white master whose continued sexual abuse led to her falling pregnant and she gave birth to George, who was the third generation, and he in turn learned of his African heritage through the stories that his mother told him and he also did the same to his own children as a way of preserving memories of the ancestral past; the legacy of Kunta Kinte. Slavery and its Effects in Roots It is from slavery that one can trace the fall of blacks from grace. Slavery against Africans was a white orchestrated system that came in handy in the improvement of the economic base of southern states in America. The American south was concerned about the “indentured labor” and the declining human population in the United States and Europe and decided to opt for alternative
  20. 20. 20 human labor which it is claimed was vast in Africa. The reasons given for choosing Africans are pathetic and racist. Americans argued to say that Africans possessed robust labor and their built was suitable for the climatic changes that obtained in these parts of the country. Africa lost millions of her people following invasions by whites and their ships. The institution of slavery was notorious of the dirty tricks it employed to abduct Africans. In the process, the saga as shown in the text incorporates the violence and degradation experienced by slaves right through the text. The humiliation and anguish starts with the inhuman capture of Kunta and others in The Gambia. These captured Africans were shipped away to America through the Atlantic Ocean, a journey that came to be known as the “Middle Passage”. Following the inhuman raiding in the western coasts, the African had to face the most grotesque horrors of inhuman treatment along the “passage”. It must be stated that African captives began a new journey in life, one that conditioned and subjected them to human evils such as incessant beatings, raping of women, body mutilations, the brutal living and working conditions which as slaves they had to routinely endure be it in the cargo ships, market places where they are sold or in plantations. The physical disposition of slavery in Roots The white man’s violence was noticeable through the scars that showed all over the body of a Negro. In meting his brutality, the white man used horse whips, lashes, clubs or fists to impress or stamp his dominance over the Negro. These aforementioned tools made it possible for the white man to conquer the physical body and the psyche of the Negro. In the text it is mentioned that; “The chief toubob’s whistling whip began to lash against Kunta’s back. He writhed under the pain…each blow felt as if it had torn him in half. ”
  21. 21. 21 (p.198), and “then the black’s club smashed into Kunta once again (p. 144)”. The violence exhibited in these two incidents confirms the dominance and power of the white man and the powerlessness of the Negro. The Negro had been weakened and therefore he could be considered to have been “annulled”, seeing that he could not fight back to reclaim his freedom and dignity. The physical binding of Negroes with chains confirmed the superiority of the white man over the Negro. When the Negro was in chains, he became an emasculated person and could not do anything about his present predicament. The Negro’s helplessness was the triumph of the white man over his person. The image of Kunta in chains resembles that of a baited bear or animal tied on a post. The Negro could only live to be led and controlled by his master. It is revealed in the text that; “he was lying spread-eagled. A chain, he noticed, was attached to an iron cuff on each wrist and ankle, and the four chains were fixed to the base of four poles at the corners of the hut” (p.198) The above quotation shows that the Negro became powerless the moment he was held in those emasculating chains that strapped his hands and feet. It can be argued that the physical chaining also depicts the control of the mind. When this happens one can observe that the Negro had not only given up on the fight, he had also surrendered his autonomy. Though the case of the black slatees is detached from the physical chaining that Kunta has to deal with, it cannot be overlooked that the slatees had been long emasculated and had given into the dominance of the white man.
  22. 22. 22 When the black slatees assist the white man to capture Kunta and the other blacks it can be concluded that they had been “transformed” beyond reasoning and realization that they were helping the enemy terminate the worth of black identity and dignity. In the text it is mentioned; “Kunta spun-turning his back on the man who lay doubled over on the ground at his feet-and pounded with his fists on the faces of two black men who were lungin at him with a big sack.” (p.143) The determination shown by these black slatees in capturing Kunta could be confusing and weakening to the victim here. Kunta would expect these fellow blacks under the circumstances to be assisting him fight the white man instead, but the two have been assimilated and “transformed” into ‘beasts’ that do worse than the white man. A closer look at slavery will show that it had succeeded turning blacks against each other. Slavery’s achievement to control the black man’s physical body and mind had worked excellently for the white man. The strategies that white slavers employed to overcome black resilience are chilling and horrible. The sexual violation of the captured female slaves was traumatizing and weakening. This sexual violation that the female captives were subjected to was a way of exploiting them as sexual objects. This sexual violation of female captives took place in the presence of other Negroes. This could be interpreted to have been directed to both the male and female that the white man was invincible and there was nothing that the Negro could do about it. It must be assumed that was a message to the Negroes perhaps reminding them that he was even in control of their sexuality. It is stated; “Kunta lay also bitterly picturing the toubob in his mind as they forced the women into the canoe’s dark corners in the nights; he imagined that he could
  23. 23. 23 hear the women screaming.” (p. 166) It should be said that the white man lacked any respect at all for the Negro man. This is a clear indication that the white man undermined the Negroes and certainly never saw them as a people with rights which the Declaration accords to every human being regardless of their race. It should be mentioned that such physical violation recurs throughout the text and it affected greatly the psyche of the Negro. It is not surprising to note that the Negroes cower in the presence of the white master and some decided to end their lives because they could not live to witness such brutality and human exploitation of their race. Those cases of suicide entailed jumping into the sea and some even starved themselves to death. To validate this point it is mentioned; “Then the toubob up among the cloths were yelling and pointing towards the water. Turning in that direction, the naked people saw the girl bobbing in the waves – an not far away, a pair of dark fins coursing towards her…” (p. 158) It can be shown in this quotation that much as it was suicidal to take this course, some Negroes preferred to end their misery in this manner than face the prospect of living in misery and torment for the better part of their lives as seen in the experiences of those other slaves like Kunta’s family in the plantations. One critical thing that should be noted is that slaves were discouraged to answer the master back. This attitude created problems for the Negro because where he was expected to answer he would go quiet and where he did answer, he was never certain if he had answered properly; he stood to be flogged still. It is noted in the text that; “It occurred to Kunta that these blacks masked their true feelings for the toubob as carefully as he did his changing attitude
  24. 24. 24 toward them.” (p.213) In the above quotation it can be noted that Negroes did everything they could to conceal their true feelings to avoid trouble because the white man was so unpredictable. The manner in which these Negroes concealed their true feelings expressed the height of fear the white man had instilled in the Negroes. If they did answer or behaved uncharacteristically to what was expected they were considered disrespectful and worthy of punishment to rid them of their stupidity, a stereotype the white held about blacks. During the raids back in Africa it is shown that the violence emitted by the white man while conducting the kidnappings brought memories of torture and grief, emotions that haunted the psyche of the Negro. The fact that one had to witness people being slaughtered like beasts and houses burnt down traumatized the mind. It must be mentioned that the old lady, ‘Nyo Boto’ shed some tears when she recounted her story, an indication that such memories were torturous. The old woman recalls; “In my home village one night, Nyo Boto said, she had awakened in terror as flaming grass roofs came crashing down among her screaming neighbors. Snatching up her own babies, she rushed out among others – and awaiting them were armed white slave raiders with their black slatee helpers. In a furious battle, all who didn’t escape were roughly herded together, and those who were too badly injured or too old or too young to travel were murdered before the other’s eyes.” (p. 57) It has to be stated that the tactics used here were well thought and executed because the Negroes are caught off guard and they fail to stage a meaningful resilience. The violence that ensures here serves to confirm that whites did not observe those rights that Negroes should be entitled to as
  25. 25. 25 humans. It is stated that every man holds the right to ‘life’ and ‘liberty’, but what transpired here was contrary to what the American Declaration of Independence professes. It is obvious that Negroes are not regarded as equals no wonder their privacy is intruded. Furthermore, it has to be stated that African lives were regarded cheaply. The way these Africans are rounded up resembles the capture of animals, perhaps an indication that they are considered beasts. Earlier I indicated that slavery was more concerned with human labor and Kunta’s observations confirm these claims. Evidence showing in the text shows that dozens of Africans were taken away unwillingly to the “New World”. In the text one can see that Kunta has difficulty in making up the figures but he certainly could tell that; “There must be many men…some close; some further away, some beside him, others in front of him, some below, beneath the splintery planking he lay on.” (p. 145) Historical scholars suggest a minimum of ten million Africans to have made it across the Atlantic Ocean and there is a huge number that is suggested to have perished during the “Middle Passage”. According to Booker (1949), the death toll of Africans during the passage across the Atlantic was incredibly high with an estimated third of the million Africans dying while still at sea. It is against these statistics that one gets to see the cruel nature of American civilization and the determination to “annul” and “transform” lives to meet or serve their desires. It is shown in the text that American civilization was determined to destroy Africa and her progress and supplement her own. When a continent loses the best of its prime productive age groups as shown in Nyo Boto’s account it suffices to say that whites had made it a priority that if they met resistance they could defend themselves by striking down a significant number of blacks to have the rest retreat. The murders that are committed in ‘Nyo Boto’s’ account could have been avoided,
  26. 26. 26 but because the white man was determined to stamp his authority and make a statement, he would stop at nothing to have the Negro feel his power and dominance. Again, it could be argued that slavery was conspicuously racist and exploitative considering that Negroes are chosen on the basis of their physical prowess and skin. Some scholars have stated that Africans were preferred to other races because they are robust and were seen to suit the climatic conditions that prevailed in the “New World”. These assertions are supported by the conflict theory that has been adopted for this study. The hypothesis recognizes that between groups in society there would be a struggle for control by one group of another. The powerful will stop at nothing in an attempt to conquer to control and dictate to the weak. In an effort to advance his superiority and dominance, the white man embarks on a butchering spree over the emasculated Negro perhaps to rubber-stamp the notion that whites and blacks will never share an equal status. This is shown in the following quotation were Kunta and Omoro get to learn of the events that took place in this village. Kunta and Omoro find in a village recently attacked by white slavers. The narrator states that; “Kunta saw not a person of his age – or even as young as Omoro… Slave takers one night had stolen or killed all of their young people.” (p.71) The events that have taken place in this village are testimonial of the ruthless nature of slavery and the effect it had on these poor “old” and “crying babies”. It must be stated that the whites were committed in their attempts to “annul” and live these Negroes to waste. In the above incident it can be highlighted that whites do not care about the development and future of Africa. When whites destroy this village they seem to be asserting that blacks are illegitimate members of the human race and the white man’s actions are justified in eliminating these Negro’s. These “old”
  27. 27. 27 and “crying babies” are left with no hope for a future because evidence suggests that the ably bodied have either been taken away or killed. On board the slave ships Kunta and his captive comrades are “stripped naked,” “chained” in “shackles that bound his wrists and ankles” (p.147). These actions by the white man are meant to humiliate and undermine black life. It is stated; “The girls were naked; Kunta could only avert his eyes; he had never seen a woman naked before. The men, also naked, sat with murderous hatred etched in their faces, grimly silent and crusted with blood from whip cuts.” (p. 147) Negroes are treated like they are beasts or animals that have to be chained to take charge of their behavior. Again the chaining is symbolic of white power and domination and for the black person it is a relegation to an inferior status. The physical binding of the body serves as a confirmation that the Negro now has no self determination; he or she is now under the control of the one who put him or her in those shackles. It is a confirmation that Negroes hold no liberties. It is without doubt that the very same rights and privileges which the white man deprives the Negro; he enjoys them to the fullest. In the text it is only nature that will scare the white man as portrayed by the rains that descend on the cargo. Again the conditions that Negroes are housed in below the decks confirm that they are not entitled to comforts like the white man because they are not equals. It is shown that Negroes share these overcrowded holdings with rats and lice that further torment them and they are defenseless against this intrusion because they are bound in chains. It can be assumed that Negroes are left to suffer the torment of rats and lice under these deplorable conditions only because they were good as
  28. 28. 28 “dead matter” given that some of them already were showing no signs of recovery following bacterial and viral infections. It is stated; “The only thing that could take Kunta’s mind off the toubob was the rats, which had become bolder and bolder with each passing day. Their nose whiskers would tickle between Kunta’s legs as they went to bite a sore that was bleeding or running with pus. But the lice preferred to bit him on the face.” (p. 167) The conditions that these man and woman find themselves having to cope with indicate that they have been condemned to the lowest rungs, that of rodents and lice. The white man definitely did not care about the health of these people. This is shown in that these rats and lice are feeding on the Negroes open wounds, further worsening their sores and even exposure to infection that come with these rats and lice. It can be mentioned that the Negro had now been reduced to a beast that had to struggle against ticks that sought survival. THE SOCIAL AND PSYCHOLOGICAL EFFECTS OF SLAVERY IN ROOTS The conquering journey of the Negro could not start and end with the brutalization of the body only, it was extended to the psychology and social well-being of the Negro. The tactics that the white man employed to fracture the social and psychological well-being of the Negro was expressed through physical violation of the body. These dirty tactics that the white man employed reduced the Negro to a non being. This was done to express white superiority and confirm black inferiority.
  29. 29. 29 The brutality of whites registered through the horrendous slavery system affected Negroes personal vigor, self esteem and human dignity, rendering the Negro vulnerable. The effects of slavery culminated in fear, detached families, and emotionally traumatized and unstable Africans, embittered people, race conflicts, and rebellious personality amongst others. It must be stated that all these factors contributed to the “transformation” of Negroes into submissiveness. It must be noted that the likes of Kunta had difficulty trusting other blacks at first. This could be understood from the first impressions he had gathered concerning those slave raiding “slatees” back in Africa and those he came across in the “New World”. In the text, at first one can note Kunta keeping his distance from other Negroes because he feels he cannot trust them. This is how Kunta felt; “He managed to convey the impression that he was occupied sufficiently by himself and that he had no need or desire to associate with anybody. But Kunta sensed that the other blacks didn’t trust him any more than he trusted them.” (p. 206) It is important to note that this was another triumph by the white man on his road to “transform” the Negro. When Negro’s could not trust one another as presented in the above quotation, in a way the white man had got rid of the social support systems that would have proved detrimental to his efforts of total control. The ideas and ideals set out by whites for slavery as depicted in Roots can only be seen violating the principle of human equality and those precepts set in the American Declaration of Independence. The Declaration of Independence observed that “all men are created equal” and that
  30. 30. 30 they had the right to enjoy those “inalienable” rights that were identified to be “life”, “liberty” and “the pursuit of happiness”. In the text, it is shown that these rights were not extended to the Negroes. In Roots, whites are given property rights and they use those rights to buy and sell slaves as they wish. In the text Kunta is sold for “eight fifty”, a confirmation that he had become someone’s property; hence he no longer had power to determine his own destiny. The fact that he is traded at the will of another human shows that he had seized to be a human being. Kunta and his African comrades are “transformed” and become business commodities. The white man does not see a man in a Negro, but a business commodity. The Negro has since ceased to be a person but a wager. This newly assumed status or role has been arrived at to show him that he is not an equal to the white man, instead he is expendable. The slave was forcibly made to serve the master against his or her will in the plantations. It has to be noted that in plantations, the slaves did everything they could to avoid the harshness of the overseer and his whip. According to Booker (1949) the likes of George Washington were mean and ruthless to their slaves. George Washington was said to have ordered his slaves to work from day break until dusk. Washington’s administration of his slaves was generally similar to the methods that Kunta’s master applied. Kunta and his co-workers are made to work hard and serve long winding hours in the plantations with scorn and submission. It is said; “These black ones seemed to have no concern in their lives beyond pleasing the toubob with his lashing whip. It sickened him to think how these black ones jumped about their
  31. 31. 31 work whenever they saw a toubob, and how, if that toubob spoke a word to them, they rushed to do whatever he told them to. Kunta couldn't fathom what had happened to so destroy their minds that they acted like goats and monkeys.” (p.208) In the above quotation one can see the effect slavery had on Negros. The violent nature of the white man has taught the Negro to be obedient to the master’s call always. As Kunta observes, these Negroes have been “transformed” to behave like animals. It should be mentioned that the behavior exhibited in the quotation is a result of the whip. It should be understood that the conditions prevailing under slavery promoted family instability. As it is shown in the text, through their invasions, the white man disrupted the family set up and thereby destabilizing the victim’s social life and psyche. Kunta has been unfortunate to suffer this fate where he is separated first from his African family. He attempts to fight his way out of abduction to claim his freedom. It is stated; He was fighting for more than his life now. Omoro! Binta! Lamin! Suwadu! Madi! (p.144) It can be assumed that Kunta’s fight stated in this quotation was a fight against the eminent stripping of his kinship ties from family and Africa. It is shown in the text, particularly Kunta’s experiences with his African family and later with Kizzy, that through slavery, the master having kidnapped his subject, succeeded in stripping the captive of all kinship ties and social standing so that the captive was physically alive but socially dead. A slave with no genealogy and recognized community was likely to consent and be submissive. The slave was as good as “dead matter” without the family or community’s support system.
  32. 32. 32 The white man was determined to “transform” the Negro by assimilating his person into the American culture. However, it should be mentioned that a Negro’s assimilation into American culture did not mean he was now an equal to the white man. He remained inferior and a subordinate. The white man was only doing this because it felt right to him to take charge of his subjects since the slave was his property and the fact that he held rights over them made him to do as he pleased. The first step the master took was to erase and get rid of everything that was African in the Negro. This is shown when he attempts to strip Kunta of his identity which is enshrined in his name. “Samson” under the directive of the master tries with little success to have Kunta understand his new name “Toby”. It is stated; “You To-by! Toby. Massa say you name Toby!” When what he meant began to sink in, it took all of Kunta's self-control to grip his flooding rage…He wanted to shout “I am Kunta Kinte, first son of Omoro, who is the son of the holy man Kairaba Kunta Kinte!” (p.202) It can be assumed that Kunta’s supposed “apparent stupidity” was a way of vehemently rejecting this new identity which was being imposed on him. In this incident one can see that the white man is determined to destroy the African identity which is the only thing that identifies Kunta with his African past. This procedure of acculturation was famous of stripping ones their language. It was done for the purposes of de-socializing and depersonalizing Africans in the “New World”. The African not only lost his name, he also lost his language of communication, integrity and dignity as a person. A slave who was stripped of the above stated values became emotionally and psychologically abused, rendering him a social misfit. The Negro has to face the white man’s world with little or no support system rendering any efforts of resilience insignificant and useless. In the text Kunta attempts on several times to escape
  33. 33. 33 bondage but fails on all attempts because the environment is laden with suspicion and individualism amongst Negroes. “But no matter how long he stayed among them, Kunta vowed never to become like them, and each night his mind would go exploring again into ways to escape from this despised land. He couldn't keep from reviling himself almost nightly for his previous failure to get away.” (p.208) The white man’s violence had instilled fear among Negroes as depicted in the above quotation to an extent that Negroes seem to have lost trust of each other. This has been necessitated by those Negroes who seem to have formed alliances with the white man like the “slatees” as Kunta observes. The fact that the white man considered his race superior over Negroes show he was convinced it was his duty to enlighten the Negro about the cause of civilization. The civilization that the Negro was being introduced to heard it that he was a non being and an inferior. Kunta observes that; “…the toubob didn’t look at blacks as people but as things (p. 222) It should be understood that slavery knew no age and no limits. In America young Negro children are born into slavery and the white children grow up knowing that they are better than their black counterparts. For instance, the child Kizzy grows up doing house chores under the instruction of her mother and being of service to the little Miss Anne. The white little girl does not see a human equal in the infant Kizzy but her play thing that has been born to amuse her. This is what she thinks of Kizzy; ‘She jes’ like a li’l nigger doll!’ squealed Miss Anne, hopping ecstatically up and
  34. 34. 34 down, clapping her hands with delight’ (p. 322) It can be felt from this quotation that Negro children were not an exception to slavery. They are stripped off the right to a fulfilled childhood and are “transformed” to become objects of amusing the white masters children. Kizzy grows up without the privileges Miss Anne has. Her life is stalled before it even develops. Kunta is exasperated by the attitudes of the white world towards the independence and happiness of his daughter. The narrator notes his feelings concerning the role his daughter has been assigned barely after her birth. “Kunta never said anything about it, but it galled him to think how that toubob child acted as if Kizzy had entered the world to serve as her play thing, like some extraordinary doll.” (p. 322). To further validate the point that slavery new no age or limits, it is significant to note that even at old age the white master worked these slaves till their death. The system did not value or hold respect of the old the way it is done in Africa. Back in Africa, those old like Nyo Boto would do light work such as storytelling and nursing of the young, but in the plantations the white man remains indifferent and expects them to conduct their duties with diligence and commitment. It has to be noted that all the Negro characters in their advanced age beginning with the nameless old man in master Waller’s plantation to Uncle Mingo, Miss Malizy, old Sister Sarah and grandmother Kizzy at Massa Lea’s plantation, all die laboring like mules despite evidence they could no longer cope with the demands of the plantation. The emphasis of this point is that the white man did not care about the state of the Negro; what was important is that he or she remained fulfilling his duties. For instance when Uncle Mingo is
  35. 35. 35 evidently ailing and struggling with his health, Massa Lea continues to have him work even harder without any medical attention and he remains isolated in the outskirts of the plantation till his death. Aunt Matilda and Grandma Kizzy relate the miserable death of Uncle Mingo who dies expressing that the chickens have to be tended to or else the Massa would be furious at them as Miss Lea advises. Kizzy and Matilda narrate; “An’ dere he was, Po’ ol’ soul layin’n out on de road, look like some pile o’ rags!’ Sister Sarah…she feared Uncle Mingo was beyond what her roots could cure, and Not even the missis knowing how to contact any doctor, ‘weren’t nothin’ else us could Do ’cept wait…Po’ ol’ soul done died all by hisself.” (p. 490) American civilization which is represented by Massa Lea and his wife is shown to be mostly worried about its capital generating projects at the expense of the Negroes life. The white master and his wife condemned Uncle Mingo to his death by depriving him a right to life. Instead of making sure that he gets medical attention, the white madam is busy throwing threats that the master will “have a fit” if his chickens are not attended too. It can be concluded that the whites indeed overworked and oppressed Negroes leaving them spent and piled like “dead matter” the way Uncle Mingo is described in his final moments. As a slave, his entire social context becomes redefined by this socio-cultural change and the transformation of personality change represents an abandonment of the old as the new sets in and one gets to be absorbed into the fabric of American south. Kunta’s loneliness away from his home, family, and culture sets in and contributes to the ultimate change of attitudes towards American culture. He has been split up from a normal family and social life. Kunta cannot fully express
  36. 36. 36 himself because he is not free; he has lost his autonomy, which had so defined him as a young man in Africa. Kunta and the rest of Negro people acquire new attitudes and customs that confirm their total surrender and death of their African spirit and the setting in of a new creation, the African American. He observes; “…these black ones seemed to have no more realization than the others that they were a lost tribe, that any kind of respect or appreciation for themselves had been squeezed out of them so thoroughly that they seemed to feel that their lives were as they should be. All they seemed to be concerned about was not getting beaten, having enough to eat and somewhere to sleep.” There weren't many nights that Kunta finally managed to fall asleep before lying awake burning with fury at the misery of his people.” (p.236) Kunta makes a critical observation in the above quotation were he admits the “social death” of his race. Booker (1949) mentions that those slaves who were tired or unwilling to serve the white master like Kunta had the misfortune of being whipped constantly from attempting to skip servitude. Booker (1949:69) mentions; “Runaway slaves were hunted down with dogs and severely flogged when captured” It can be noted that the violent nature of slavery was undesirable especially when one considers that these were humans acting crudely against other human. It should be stated that this behavior by whites did not reflect the true ideals of a nation that claimed it stood to defend the rights and democracies of the oppressed. In conclusion it can be argued that the word “men”, that appears in the Declaration of Independence perhaps did not apply to the Negro. It should be understood that if at all that phrase exclusively made reference to all human, then the American white man was not being sincere to
  37. 37. 37 the values and ideals of the nation that claims to be a defender of human rights of the underprivileged groups. It can be stated that American democracy was a preserve for the white race and not the Negro. In the following chapter, James Weldon Johnson’s The Autobiography of an Ex-Colored Man will be examined. The purpose of the chapter is to attempt to trace the race relations as they existed between the white man and the Negro in post-slavery America. The major question that will be tackled here is whether there is any significant change in the white man’s stance towards the Negro given that they had complemented each other in the American Revolution and that the nation was economically booming in post-slavery America. CHAPTER THREE: THE “INEQUALITY OF RACES” Introduction In the previous chapter it was noted that the existence of slavery and its violent nature on the lives of Negroes is evidence enough to point that the white American was a hypocrite and opportunist who developed in all respects of life at the expense of the powerless Negro. Again, it was established that the very existence of the institution of slavery and its violent nature contradicted the American Declaration of Independence. The central focus of this chapter will be an analysis of James Weldon Johnson’s, The Autobiography of an Ex-Coloured Man. My study will seek to establish the social and economic situation of blacks in America during twentieth century. I will use the conflict theory to critique the race relations as they unfold in the text between whites and blacks. This chapter will attempt
  38. 38. 38 to address the question of how the white man related to the Negro in post-slavery and post- reconstruction era in America. James Weldon Johnson was born in June 17, 1871 in Jacksonville, Florida, the son of Helen Louise Dillet and James Johnson. He was a teacher, poet, song writer, and civil rights activist, the son of a head waiter and the first female black public school teacher in Florida. Johnson was second of the three children. His intentions in reading and music were encouraged by his parents at an early age. After graduating from school, he went to Atlanta University, were he earned his A.B in 1894. He taught in rural Hampton, Georgia, were he experienced life among poor African Americans, from which he had been largely sheltered during his middle-class upbringing in Jacksonville. In 1895 he founded a newspaper, the Daily American, designed to educate Jacksonville’s adult black community. Johnson died on 26 June 1938, after an illustrious career that saw him publish numerous literary works such as God’s Trombones: Seven Negro Sermons in Verse, Black Manhattan (1930) and Negro Americans, What Now? (1934). James Weldon Johnson’s, The Autobiography of an Ex-colored Man tells the story of a young man living in the post-reconstruction era in America in the late nineteenth and early twentieth century’s. His parents were a wealthy Southern gentleman and a colored seamstress employed by the gentleman’s family. The narrator travels around the United States and through Europe, observing how white and black people behave within separate enclaves. In the end he decides to “pass” or to live as a white man and abandon his African American heritage.
  39. 39. 39 Johnson presents an American society that has not changed its attitudes towards the Negro despite the presence of the Declaration of Independence and the Emancipation Proclamation, two landmarks achievements that sought to improve conditions for the formerly enslaved Negro. The Negro finds himself fastened in chains and caged like an animal by a white society that has connived to reduce him to an invalid despite the many sacrifices he has made for the development of America. I have identified five incidents in the novel that I will consider for exploring the deep seated racial conflicts that prevailed between blacks and whites. They include the; class room incident in (p.5), the Texan versus Old Soldier (p.56-8), the ‘Millionaire’ and the race question (p.50), the lynching incident (p. 65-6) and the narrators revelation of his identity (p.72) . Racial prejudice and the isolated Negro The Reconstruction period offered the nation an opportunity to rectify the horrors of slavery and map a reconciliation program that would help facilitate the unification of Negro’s and whites. The reconciliation process stood a better chance to excel given that America was on a path to recovery as shown by the emancipation of Negro’s from slavery. Again, the presence of the Declaration of Independence offered both races an opportunity to embrace and acknowledge each other as equals. Sadly, the American civilization which was projected by the whites did not recognize Negro’s to be equals with whites. The white man was never in anyway prepared to elevate a Negro to the same platform he stood in and call him an equal. In the previous chapters, I did allude to the idea that the white man regarded himself superior, powerful and intelligent, characteristics which he
  40. 40. 40 believed where unique to his race only; and to extend them to the Negro meant he was not unique after all and he stood not to have any one to exercise his domination and oppression over. After, the emancipation the Negro held high hopes of a better America both in the southern and northern parts as shown in the text by the free flow of Negro’s to the different parts of the country in search for better opportunities. The reality on the ground shows that white America designed strategies to retain the inferiority status of the Negro despite his independence. The white man came up with the Jim Crow laws which sought to keep the Negro in an inferior status. Through these laws, the Negro was stalled of any political, social and economic development. It has to be noted that the Jim Crow laws restricted the public domain of the Negro and there was no way he could assess those exclusively sophisticated facilities which will improve his condition. It should be noted that the Negro was unable to access the wealth, land, political influence, qualifications, and institutions of higher education, enjoy employment monopoly, legislation space, financial loans, technology and other necessary provision which the whites enjoyed. In the text, the narrator’s descriptions of the streets outlooks and its people in Atlanta capture the grave poverty that Negro’s live under. The narrator observes; “We passed along until; finally we turned into a street that stretched away, up and downhill, and here I caught my first sight of colored people. I saw a street crowded with them…they filled the shops and thronged the sidewalks. The unkempt appearance, the shambling, slouching gait and loud talk…aroused in me a feeling of almost repulsion.” (p.19).
  41. 41. 41 In the above quotation the narrator is taken aback by the physical presence of black poverty he witnesses in the Atlanta ghetto. The observations the narrator makes reference to are a clear indication that the Negro did not have it simply. The colored people found in these slums in the Atlanta ghetto represent the bigger picture of a Negro’s life under the false promises of the north that it was going to offer the Negro the opportunity to live the ‘American Dream’. The conditions which are described above and in the quotation that follows express the idea that colored people had their lives stalled and could not progress either socially or economically due to the fact that they were blacks and could never assume an equal standing with white folks. The blacks are geographically separated from the whites and the fact that the two races are not in contact as shown in these two quotations suffices to show that blacks where never going to learn from whites how to upgrade their business enterprises. “The business places of the street along which we were passing consisted chiefly of low bars, cheap dry-goods and notion stores, barber shops, and fish and bread restaurants.” (p. 19) According to the quotation above, one can assume that it was a deliberate ploy by whites to have these colored black businesses crammed within limited space. This is a clear indication that further supports the idea of inequality. The whites would not give colored people bigger land to establish their business because they wanted to enjoy the monopoly of commerce and trade. An allocation of bigger lands for Negro’s to set up their business was tantamount to expressing economic equality.
  42. 42. 42 Again it can be noted that the descriptions of the above conditions which coloreds have to eat, live and spend much of their time are under developed and filthy. It can be mentioned that the white system’s desperate attempts to pin down and reduce the lives of Negro’s into “dead matter” is emphasized. The overcrowding, living and trading conditions these coloreds have been subjected to by the white man as shown in the quotation surely is a breeding place for crime, prostitution and health hazard. When these fears do come to effect, there is a high probability that blacks stand to be wiped away for crimes like thieving and prostitution and at the same time might perish due to illnesses acquired from health hazards. This interpretation shows the white man’s devious tactics in attempting to stifle Negro progress and “transform” him into “dead matter”. It can be noted that the white system deliberately subjected these Negroes to these adverse conditions as a way of containing the Negro who was bent on wrestling civil rights and struggling for equality. It can be ascertained that the conflict between these two groups as suggested by the conflict theory is a struggle of control and imposition of one’s ideas over the other. However the white man has power and is in the driving seat to dictate terms and unfortunately the Negro is suffering from under white control. The Jim Crow laws can be viewed to have had the duty to keep Negro’s away from white dominated areas, rather than to forbid the whites intruding Negro’s space. In the text, the narrator touches on cases were whites come out from their private lives or domains to experience the joys felt in the Negro life, despite the challenges Negro’s have to face every day. In the text the narrator carefully uses two important white characters that are crucial for the exploration of the racial inequalities between coloreds and whites. The narrator brings to the fore a rich ‘white widow’ who flirts with a colored man and buys him clothes and jewellery in order keep her company and
  43. 43. 43 the ‘millionaire’ whom the narrator provides musical entertainment. It has to be noted that given the two white’s economic status and the two Negro’s, one gets to see that through their wealth they get to control and exploit these economically disadvantaged and vulnerable blacks. It should be noted that though the narrator was handsomely paid, there is no doubt that he had been reduced to a personal slave servant in order to please the white man. This is shown by the quotation that follows were the narrator plays at the parties he hosted and even to entertain him as away to comfort him from his sorrows of the world. The narrator notes; “I often played for him alone at his apartments. The stopping of the music always aroused him enough to tell me to play this or that; and I soon learned that my task was not to be considered finished until he got up from his chair and said, “That will do (p.42).” In this quotation one cannot ignore the fact that there is an exploitation of the weak by the powerful. The white man has the means which the narrator does not have and he is taken advantage of because he is; firstly a black man and; secondly because he is in dire need of money. It can be gathered that the Negro has been made so desperate by American civilization that he had to overlook his personal good and health in order to meet the demands of the white man. The narrator notes that; “At times I became so oppressed with fatigue and sleepiness that it took almost superhuman effort to keep my fingers going; this man sitting there so mysteriously silent…seemed to be some grim, mute, but relentless tyrant, possessing over me a supernatural power which he used to drive me on mercilessly to exhaustion.” (p.42)
  44. 44. 44 It should be noted that these two whites have the power and liberty to override the Jim Crow, unlike a Negro person who would not dare cross the line in fear of victimization. To further validate the point of economic inequality, it is shown that these two are widely travelled. It could be assumed that their travels are financed by the sweat of the Negro who has to struggle long hours of service for little pay in the cigar making factories in order to cushion the white master. Again, the comfort which is described in the ‘millionaire’ house can be interpreted to represent the ‘American Dream’ which is captured in the Declaration of Independence. For the narrator to experience these luxuries and comforts he had to trade his identity, an indication that the Negro was never considered an American hence stood no chance to be flowered with such privileges. Again it should be noted that the segregation and discrimination of races impacted negatively on the Negro child if one was a product of a mixed race. It should be noted that the Negro child grows with a dilemma of identity. In the case of the narrator he is rejected by the superior race when he is still a child for having ‘drops of black blood’ flowing in his veins. At the same time, when he is now a grown man, the Negro race acknowledges him with reservations. The narrator suffers an identity crisis at both stages of his life where he struggles to mix and mingle. The white community was so racist that it abhorred any sexual relations between a black person and a white person. Regardless of their hatred for anything that was black, whites particularly skipped their wives to have sexual relations with Negro women. It could be said that a few of these relations were of consent, and the majority of women were violated. The traumatic ordeal of these women and children was the reality of raising these children without the support of their fathers and those children growing up in a broken family. The errant conduct of these children who
  45. 45. 45 frequent clubs, engage in substance abuse and engage in criminal activities can be blamed on broken families. In the text the narrator and his seemingly youthful colleagues frequent “the club” where they participate in binging orgies and gambling. These Negro’s find solace in these activities because the economic system of the nation has deprived them of any meaningful employment opportunities. In instances were some are thrown out of employment by the closure of places such as the ‘cigar making’ factories, their lives are shattered and they struggle to make ends meet. In his description of the Atlanta lodgings, the narrator notes that Negro’s resided in deplorable overcrowded ghetto cottages, under developed neighborhoods, with poor service delivery and paid high rentals. The narrator notes that he was charged “fifty cents” a night to sleep in this miniature lodging. The owner of the lodgings overcrowded his lodgings to maximize on profits. The narrator notes; “…this room is fixed to accommodate four men at a time. He went on to tell me that the man who kept the house did not serve meals” (p. 19). On the other hand, the description of the comforts of the “millionaire” in the text shows a huge gap between Negro’s and whites. The standards of the white man cannot be matched to those of Negro’s. The narrator describes the white man’s home with admiration. He mentions; “When my eyes were adjusted to the soft light I saw that I was in the midst of elegance and luxury in such a degree as I had never seen.” (p.40) In instances were whites and blacks come into contact, one cannot ignore the friction and tension that exists between the races. It has to be noted that between blacks and whites there prevails a
  46. 46. 46 racial conflict. The theory adopted for this exploration contends that society has become an arena of inequality that generates conflict and social change amongst different races and classes of the same racial group. In the text it should be understood the conflicts that exists between the two antagonists has been necessitated by the forceful imposition of white superiority over Negro’s. The majority and superior whites are convinced it is their duty to lead the Negro from her primitive ways and enlighten his race with white civilization. On the other hand the Negro is determined to wrest his economic and civil liberties. The whites segregate and discriminate Negro’s on the basis of race. It should be noted that the Negro clamors for equal treatment on the argument that “all men are created equal” as professed in the Declaration of Independence. In the text the narrator and the “millionaire” engage in a discussion that touches on the Negro question, a subject that is the centre of the conflict. The theory adopted for this exploration contends that society has become an arena of inequality that generates conflict and social change amongst different races and classes of the same racial group. The white man felt the Negro did not deserve to be accorded the American Dream because he was inferior and a subordinate. The Negro race was growing in numbers and the whites feared that if they were to gain civil liberties, Negro’s stood to wake up someday in control of America and the whites would have to suffer the same fate as Negro’s. Therefore the white man remained resolute in sidelining the Negro as an equal and pushed him to the periphery where there was little chance for his race to rise up and claim a stake in the political and socioeconomic sphere. In an effort to escape the economic and social “annulment” the narrator migrates from being a colored man to the white world. The white world is benevolent to its own and discriminates alien races such as the Negro. A look at the narrator when he was still living as a colored man, he struggles to assert
  47. 47. 47 himself at the centre of American civilization. The white world proved to be stifling and retrogressive to the Negro. When the narrator eventually crosses the racial ship, suddenly opportunities present themselves abundantly. The narrator mentions that when he became a white man, at the advice of a friend he invested on “a piece of property” and the results were enormous. He says; “I did not regret following this friend’s advice, for in something like six months I disposed of my equity for more than double my investment.” (p. 69) Through association and appearance the narrator gets to live the real American dream which eluded him when he was still a colored man, a clear testimony that America was never going to accommodate any Negro’s as equals or extend the olive branch of those “inalienable rights”. Black and white aspirations are worlds apart and at times are never voiced publicly perhaps because of the marginal lines between the two races. In a conversation where the child narrator and friends discuss their future, it has to be noted that the black children have their hopes and aspirations pinned on education. In this text blacks who have advanced up the ladder of success look to have done it through the academic way. The Negro views education as the immediate get way to earn respect and a better living in this racist society. For the white children going to school seemed a mere formality. They grow up with knowledge that they can make the best out of the world rather than the world making the best out of them. ‘Red Head’ the white child does not seem to take his studies seriously compared to his friends, the
  48. 48. 48 narrator and ‘Shiny.’ Perhaps he understands that the path to the future has already been laid out for him, unlike the Negro child who has to sweat it out for better prospects in the future. His over reliance on the narrator can be interpreted to be symbolic of white supremacy and dominance of the colored man. In the text the narrator looks to carry the heavy and demanding duty were he has to see to it that he carries through “Red Head” across the journey of academics. The white race wields its power in every way. The narrator mentions; “I had been promoted twice, and had managed each time to pull “Red” along with me. I think the teachers came to consider me the only hope of his ever getting through school, and I believe they secretly conspired with me to bring about the desired end.” (p. 9) It seems the white system would bend every ethic and rule in the book to have their own pull through, and at the same time will overlook anything that is concerned with the elevation of the Negro like the civil rights liberties, advancement of Negro education according to capability amongst other demands. According to the whites their superiority over blacks still has to show were effort has to carry the day. The narrator has no option but be an accomplice to corrupt dealings in order to retain the dignity and image of the white man as intelligent and jerked up. There is no doubt that if the narrator was in the position of “Red” he would have been accorded similar treatment. For the narrator, ‘Shiny’ and the ‘Professor’ they earn recognition of whites because they have exhibited outstanding black potential. However it cannot be dismissed that whites will still have contempt of black success. A case in point is comes out through the narrator’s “millionaire” friend.
  49. 49. 49 The white “millionaire” was honest enough to express the contempt of white America and the impossibility of a black person becoming successful in the white world. The narrator tells of the “millionaire’s” opinions on the race question. He says; “This idea you have of making a Negro out of yourself is nothing more than a sentiment; and you do not realize the fearful import of what you intend to do. What kind of a Negro would you make now, especially in the South? I can imagine no more dissatisfied human being than an educated, cultured and refined colored man in the United States.” (p. 50) These sentiments are a representation of the inequalities that existed amongst the two races. The narrator is motivated to make it as a Negro, but the white “millionaire” as he claims to be honest with him is embittered by the possibility of losing his newly found ‘slave’. It is relevant to note that the narrator will be doing something meaningful with his talents to present his case and develop his own image and that of his race, but he is held up by this white “millionaire” as a personal aide who has to sooth the white man’s worries of the world and entertain the parties he hosts. Much as it was a means of earning a living, it still retains the power of the white man over the black person. It is amazing to observe that whites in the text are never seen to be working compared to their black counterparts. Their roles as millionaires in the case of the “millionaire” friend and the white “widow” concludes well off the economic imbalances between blacks who have to work and whites who have only to spend the sweat of blacks.
  50. 50. 50 The protagonist has had the privilege to experience life as a member of both races. The narrator’s unique experience has afforded this dissertation an opportunity to assess both races from a closer range and come up with a finer assessment of biases along racial lines. The “inalienable rights” captured in the Declaration of Independence proved to be a preserve of whites, and blacks are aliens with no recognizable claim. The Declaration was an all white arrangement and could never be considered outside that race. The attitude of whites towards blacks has always been a retrogressive one. A clear case to note is in the manner in which they applauded the speech of Booker T. Washington in the Atlanta exposition. They celebrated and encouraged misleading suggestions that kept blacks under the control of whites. It can be taken to be true that the efforts made by whites to support any perceived development meant for the Negro at the beginning of the nineteenth century was to sweet talk and quiet blacks who had become vocal through their civil rights movement such as National Association of Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) and Niagra Movement. These latest developments are not proof that the white man thought it was time to elevate the colored peoples to equal status with them. These developments were well calculated moves to dupe colored people into believing that whites had them in mind when they came up with the Declaration of Independence. For blacks, so long as civil liberties suggested by Du Bois (1903) were not met, the Declaration was good as a non event for the race. Du Bois and other radical African American school of
  51. 51. 51 thoughts in America had demanded these three best rights, “right to vote,” “civil rights” and “education for the black youth according to ability.” If these were granted, perhaps colored people could consider the Declaration of Independence as a better proposition that stood and delivered on its interests. The meaning of being a Negro in America After the Civil war, America underwent a Reconstruction with a mandate to reunite a shattered nation. The reconstruction can be looked at in two ways; first it presented an opportunity for the southerners and northerners to put to rest the anarchy that threatened to tear the nation apart for a long time. Secondly, it was an opportunity for whites and colored people to address the racial differences that undermined the American Declaration of Independence. Since the days of slavery, blacks had been marginalized and discriminated against heightening racial conflicts in America. Blacks were denied their naturally endowed “inalienable” rights on the basis of race. This meant that they could not enjoy their rights to “life,” “liberty” and “pursuit of happiness” as pronounced in the ‘universal’ Declaration. The white race had always looked at itself as a smarter race; one that is more prestigious, enlightened, and powerful and hence therefore, considered itself to be better. The narrator captures white contempt when faced with competition. He states; “I was walking down the street one day with a young man, who was born in Jacksonville, but had been away to prepare himself for a professional life. We passed a young white man, and my companion said to me, “You see that young man? We grew up together; we have played, hunted, and fished together,
  52. 52. 52 we have even eaten and slept together, and now since I have come back home he barely speaks to me.” (p. 20) The quotation puts it forth that whites were too proud to admit black progress and wherever it is shown they find reason to feel “irritation” and “disgust.” The fact that whites despised and looked down upon coloreds, it becomes natural that whites feel blacks who have earned their mark in a repressive society are “putting on airs” to put it in the words of the narrator. Where coloreds succeed, whites will always want to topple that success by means of vile and humiliation of blacks. The desire to excel by the Negro was met with chilliness by whites. Educated and well talented coloreds such as the narrator and ‘Shiny’ will still are referred to as “boy”. Despite doing the same jobs with whites it can be assumed that the likes of ‘Shiny’ and the ‘professor’ never got similar wages with their white counterparts. Whites will surely earn more than blacks, a clear indication of how whites undermined and economically “annulled” Negro efforts to elevate themselves. The narrator manages to maneuver in both races with ease because he is a “coloured man” who has a skin pigment that qualifies him to be considered a white person. The position which he has put himself in has its advantages, but at the same time creates problems for him in terms of racial allegiance. The narrator confesses that he could not live with the thought that he had chosen a race that exerted its position through such deplorable acts of human abuse, at the same time he could not stomach to remain identified with a race that had whites as their terror. He says; “I argued that to forsake one’s race to better one’s condition was no less worthy an action than to forsake one’s country for the same purpose. I finally made up my mind that I would neither disclaim the black race nor claim the white race; but that I would change my name…and let the world take me for what it would; that it was not
  53. 53. 53 necessary for me to go about with a label of inferiority pasted across my forehead.” (p. 67) In his entire life’s journey, the narrator has faced struggles that have been necessitated by racism on both ends. The lynching incident advances the idea of political injustice. Negro’s are exterminated without trial an indication that whites still did not value a black man’s life and regarded themselves as the law. The way the Negro continued to be persecuted indicates that he was regarded as a non being, a thing that can be done away with. In incident depicted in the text it could be assumed served as a reminder of who was in power and control. The execution was enough to send the Negro’s terrified and shaken so that they can never challenge the authority of the white man. The violence that is perpetuated in this instance was a way of intimidating and asserting their power which they always envisaged to be under threat. The class room incident presents another example that brings the young narrator to the realities of racism. The narrator mentions that when the school principal requested that “…all of the white scholars to stand for a moment.” he was ordered to sit down and “…rise with the others.” (p. 5) The incident was a humiliating one but enlightened him on the racial conflicts that surrounded him. One cannot help but believe the allegations posted by some Afro American writers who state it as a fact that white children are brought up with the thinking that their supremacy over blacks is both necessary and proper. The narrator says of his white classmates; “I am sure that at this time the majority of my white schoolmates did not understand or appreciate any differences between me and themselves; but there were a few who had evidently received instructions at home on the matter, and more than once they displayed their knowledge in word and action.” (p. 7)
  54. 54. 54 It is a fact that whites associated blacks with whole lots of negative traits which include; ugliness, laziness, criminal behavior, substance addictions, poverty, rape, and robbery. For ex-slaves, this was the time where they were supposed to gain the civil rights and economic power as enshrined in the Declaration of Independence. The fact that some blacks partook in some of these behaviors does not justify depriving them off what the whites enjoyed. In the text, the professor condemns some of the traits by blacks which are eventually taken to be universal. He says; “You see those lazy, loafing, good-for nothing darkies, they’re not worth digging graves for; yet they are the ones who create impressions of the race for the casual observer. It’s because they are always in evidence on the street corners, while the rest of us are hard at work. But they ought not to represent the race. We are the race, and the race ought to be judged by us, not them. Every race and every nation is judged by the best it has been able to produce, not by the worst.” (p. 54) In this quotation, the professor makes a valid observation. He notes that, the white race is so racist that it does not even recognize and respect even those blacks who have done everything in the book to shape their destiny. The racial conflicts in this quotation can be noted in that, whites distaste the mere thought or success of a few blacks. The colored people in America are an admirable lot. Instead of backing down to white domination, they fight a peaceful fight to claim their civil rights. The narrator observes about the Southern Negro; “Occasionally I would meet with some signs of progress and uplift in even one of these back wood settlements –houses built on boards, with windows, and divided
  55. 55. 55 into rooms, decent food and a fair standard of living. This condition was due to the fact that there was in the community some exceptionally capable Negro farmer whose thrift served as an example.” (p.59) It is without doubt that such kind of developments stated to show after Emancipation. The reason could be that this was the time when Negroes gathered latest developments of artistic carpentry in colleges of industrial education such as Tuskegee Institute. This could be considered as one of the successes of the declaration whereby Negroes got the opportunity to learn a trade. Some Negroes formed consortiums were they were participate in share cropping and others thought of purchasing land, and others like Du Bois and the author of this text, James Weldon Johnson pursued education in prestigious universities such as Atlanta, Fiske and Harvard. As a way of exercising their newly found freedoms, blacks pulled out of white controlled churches and established their own. They also established their own clubs, churches and schools, which the narrator attends. Exceptional examples mentioned in the above quotation were in the mold of Booker T. Washington, “James Brown” and “Singing Johnson” (p. 62). This was the meaning of the American Dream. Frantz Fanon (1952) is one scholar who shared the thinking that a coloured child, having grown up in contact with whiteness will consider him or herself superior to blacks. The child narrator has an impression that he is white and believes he is different from the black children, no wonder the narrator and other white children ill-treat black children at school and at home. Together with his supposed white companions they set out taunting black boys, “Nigger, nigger, never die, Black face and shiny eye.” For the narrator, racial identity with whiteness became a necessity to acquire power and to improve one’s quality of life. The narrator goes on to express strong undertones white America held about blackness and what it symbolically meant at the time. He goes on to say;
  56. 56. 56 There were some black and brown boys and girls in the school, and several of them were in my class. One of the boys strongly attracted my attention from the first day I saw him. His face was as black as night, but shone as though it was polished; he had sparkling eyes, and when he opened his mouth he displayed glistening white teeth. It struck me at once as appropriate to call him “Shiny face,” or “Shiny eyes,” or “Shiny teeth,” (p.12) For a black person like ‘Shiny’ life was a day to day struggle, for each day was faced with socially imposed disadvantages he would not have faced had he been white. The boy is undermined as a result of what he represents. He is ridiculed and given names due to his skin tone. His blackness invokes varied interpretations and links. By virtue of being black he is despised and associated with human inferiority. The child narrator remarks concerning Shiny’s outlook “it did not take me long to discover that, in spite of his standing as a scholar, he was looked down upon.” (p.4) Whites were not concerned whether one was brilliant or talented in a particular field or area. To them a black person was forever going to remain a junior, while the white person would be the senior. On the ship, the narrator has the privilege to listen to a debate on “the Negro question.” The argument that ensures between the “Texan” and the “Old soldier” unveils cemented thoughts on the racial conflicts that exist between blacks and whites. The narrator has this to say concerning the Southern white men; “I have been compelled to accord the same kind of admiration to the Southern white man for the manner in which he defends not only his virtues but his vices. He knows, that judged by a high standard, he is narrow and prejudiced, that he is guilty of unfairness, oppression
  57. 57. 57 and cruelty, but this he defends as stoutly as he would his better qualities.” (p. 58) This conversation represents the thoughts, attitudes and feelings of America on the “race question.”The behavior of whites to deprive the Negro’s an equal status and their continued stalling of Negro progress on economic and social grounds sought to explain the races hatred and fear of Negro competition. In conclusion, it can be ascertained that the color line in America and the reality of inequalities seriously hindered Negro progress. The Negro remained subjugated and regarded as inferior, and in a way a slave, because he was still made to suffer similar conditions which earlier slaves were made to endure. CHAPTER FOUR: NEGRO HUMANITY UNDER SIEGE IN NATIVE SON INTRODUCTION In the previous chapter it was noted that the Negro was kept away from all civil liberties and opportunities that would have seen him progress and develop politically, economically and socially. It was established that the very existence of a restrictive and unyielding environment sought to establish two racially distinct worlds and advance the ideology of the inequality of races between blacks and whites. Under the circumstances that prevailed, the Negro could not realize his full potential since he was not considered an equal. The current chapter will examine Richard Wright’s, Native Son. The novel is a story of Bigger Thomas, a young man shackled by poverty and racism in the 1930s Chicago. Bigger unintentionally murders a white woman. This murder and other subsequent actions lead to a city