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“Our lives begin to end the day we become silent about things that matter” Martin Luther King Jr. In this quote, Mr. King was able to highlight a valuable perspective within the African American culture. African Americans were never silent towards their fight against slavery, segregation, or oppression. Throughout history, African Americans have dealt with tremendous anguish. African Americans were able to express their suffering through various mediums. Song, poetry, novels, and even stated their view publicly through speeches, activism and/or riots.
The methods of expression have given them such a rich culture. A culture of magnificent beauty. From the delicious food, musical beats, emotions within their poetry or lyrics, and into their dynamic forms of dance, African Americans culture has become a work of art. Martin Luther King Jr. quote is an example of their strength because they will not go silently.
African American woman are the foundation of the culture. African American woman experiences of suffering, abuse, and love.
All these impacted the development of their culture as well as impacted their families. This impact has created a culture of strength though sisterhood which is shown throughout history. As decades pass, African American women began to express themselves with power and confidence which continues to grow through their works of literature. In fiction novels written by African American women you can begin to understand their values within their culture. Their novels are example similar to events in history which unfold the truth of their struggles as well as their desire for change.
The change of African American woman starts with slavery and its impact on African American culture. Slavery, according to Merriam-Webster, is defined as “the state of being owned by another person”. In the novel Beloved by Toni Morison, the author opens the conversations of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) enslaved blacks experienced because of slavery. There are studies conducted on the effects slavery’s impact on African Americans. These studies have focused on the effects of slavery on African Americans through out history and if there is a genetic factor contributing to anger and violence.
African American women like in the novel Beloved by Toni Morrison did suffer from events during enslavement. Just like individuals from the Holocaust dealing with the memories of concentration camps where they experienced forced labor, starvation, malnutrition, and more. Sethe, in the novel, was willing to kill her children to avoid them experiencing slavery could relate to her having post traumatic stress from her time as a slave and the experience of the white men taking her milk. She would not want her children to experience similar pain. There is the possibility, women experiencing similar misery made similar decision but, in their mind, this was the method to survive and not return to the same misery. The novel expresses Sethe believed God would reunite her with her babies in death.
Slavery was a beast trying to eat away at their souls, tear them down as people. The studies of genetic markers reflecting on the years of slavery which have altered DNA to impact areas of depression and traumatic stress reactions. In a sense, the idea of mammals adapting to their surrounding can impact genetics relates back to natural selection. Just like the Holocaust survivors or Veterans of war suffer from PTSD, slavery has impacted African Americans. Which has created depression, anger, and frustration within the culture but, at the same time united them as people. Their writings speak of their frustrations and as history progress the more Africa Americans were able to write about their experiences through memoirs. (Blades, 2016)
Beloved was such an intricate book. Although, it was not a memoir, it gives the mind the opportunity to understand why African Americans can stand together against their enemy not just with violence and this is a part of their culture. cause harm. Toni Morrison was an African American woman writer and was able to bring to live some of the experiences of enslaved women. She presented each character with such complexity which helped ease the reader into empathizing with them on a larger level. Similarly, her ability to produce a story from various view-points with jumping from different periods of time was astonishing. Writing in this manner provides so much depth in the characters. Sethe for instant seemed, at first like a very broken women but, later you discover from so many perspectives from other characters she is not just broken but a survivor. The encounters women dealt with during slavery were extremely complex. Sethe’s ability to take her child’s life to save herself and her other children was a difficult decision. The book makes you realize that after slavery most freed slaves still dealt with ghost or PTSD from their period of enslavement. (Morrison, 2004).
In Beloved, Sethe struggled with finding love. Relationships are difficult for women of any race. Especially during history when women couldn’t have the power to make their own decisions. In the book, Their Eyes Were Watching God by Zora Neale Hurston, it was interesting to view some of the struggles African Americans faced after freedom from slavery. The character, Janie’s relationships provide the layout of relationship changes among African American men and women. Janie’s spirt and her strength to overcome every challenge is amazing. Overall, this book expressed another layer of challenges which weighed on African American women.
Reflecting on the various relationships Janie experiences you realize she is very strong woman looking for herself. Her first marriage to Logan was difficult because it wasn’t for love but, it shows the struggle for a black woman to find love. Even her grandmother doesn’t believe love is necessary and survival is still in her mind. Joe Starks, from her second marriage, was a very interesting man. The novel expressed he worked closely with “white folks”. Janie struggle for finding herself is diminished because of Mr. Stark’s demining behavior towards her. This is shown in the method Mr. Starks choose to carry himself as well the way he treated Janie. He felt everyone should cherish him. He felt he was a high class then everyone else. He also ordered Janie around instead of treating her like an equal. “White privilege” is an expression I have frequently heard. I felt Mr. Starks expressed privilege because of his history and understanding of the way “white folks” operated. Meaning he understood their success and wanted to make it his own. This is constant struggle African American women still face today. Living in a white male dominated society is frustrating because of the need for equal economic status and social classes.
Although, Hurston novel was in 1800’s, it represented a period of time, within the African American history, the first generation where black men and women were free to choose the person they marry or open to the option to find love. Novels like Hurston didn’t focus on the facts but, was able present struggles of African American women faced after slavery. The novel was interesting because in the beginning Janie’s relationship with Mr. Stark went sour quickly. The way Janie and Mr. Starks spoke to each other throughout their marriage brought about a lot of the conflicts. The focused on their downfall’s vs uplifting one another. In history, there is pattern of mistreating women rather white or black. It is not surprising Mr. Sparks choose to treat Janie in that manner.
As African American men desired for control over their lives, they still fell suffering over the oppression of caused by white people. As mimicking, the marriages of white men and woman, this possibility drove women like Janie to become independent versus relying on a man for happiness. Majority of white men during the 1800 didn’t woman as equals. This was the result at the end of the novel, Janie discovered she doesn’t need a man to bring her happiness, living her life to the fullest helped her accomplish true happiness. Men tend to focus on control and don’t view women as equals. Many African American women already experienced confinement in slavery and was not looking for the same in a marriage. Most likely influenced the design of independent African American woman in history.
The story itself help to see the methods women can gain power receive freedom to find oneself. It’s said men mature slower than woman. As the culture of African American’s changed throughout history, oppression has taking a toll on their relationships. As Africa American men and women fought against segregation and oppression’s with in African American communities there became a divide between men and women. As men fought to receive adequate work and education. Similar to the play The Raisin in the Sun by Lorraine Hansberry, Walter Younger, Ruth’s husband, experienced a great struggle within himself because her felt he was not in control of his own destiny. He didn’t want to continue being the servant to white people. The play is a boundless example of an African American family fighting to overcome oppression. Especially, in urban cities where the hope for a fruitful future was at arm’s reach. She proves the strength of African American women through her presentation of three black female characters within the play. The internal struggles of the African American males are present within the play. This play is inciteful and fun to read because of the author’s ability to make the characters feel real while presenting crucial issues African Americans trying to gain equality.
The three main women within the play are Ruth Younger, Beneatha Younger, Lena Younger. Lena Younger was an interesting character because comes from poverty and marries Walter Younger. They move into a two-bedroom apartment with limited space and still lives in poverty. Her desire to keep her potted plant alive expresses her desire to not give up her husband’s dream of buying a house. She mentions her husband, Mr. Younger, wanting a two-story house. Because of her husband’s death she is expecting to receive a $10,000 check from her husband insurance settlement. She was always concerned for her family’s well-being. Although her son Walter did not use the money wisely, she wanted to spread the money among her family to provide them with a better future.
All she wanted was a house with land for a garden. In the end Lena and her family decided to move in the house despite rising obstacles. One of the racial issues she faced is moving her and her black family into a white neighborhood. They still decided to move in after Mr. Linder’s warning. I also believe she was strong because when she still didn’t understand her children, she did her best to find a method of support. She is a strong woman. (Hansberry, 1987).
During the 1950’s, it was tough for women because there was not equality among races or genders. Ruth dealt with gender inequality from her husband. In the play, he constantly belittled her and didn’t believe she supported him because she was a “colored woman”. Her husband Walter Younger Jr. made constant reminders of her under performance as a “colored woman”. Demeaning comments toward any woman are hurtfully. Ruth’s resilience was amazing since she was able to stay with him even after he chose to speak to her in that manner. Hansberry also included a very dynamic controversy is within her play.
Ruth’s reasons for aborting her baby were disheartening. It is her strength which helped her recognize the confining situation another baby would provide. Ruth also expressed her strengths with caring for all of her family. Although, Beneatha was not her biological sister she still treated her like a sister. She was concerned about her family’s well-being by making the breakfast, folding and ironing clothes and much more. She was always stern with her son and her husband. She did her best to keep her house hold afloat. All of these tasks provide a supportive foundation for a successful home and Ruth provide the strength need to make the home successful.
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