What is one of the most incriminating things that happened during the racial discrimination era towards African Americans? During this time, racial discrimination caused many African Americans to lose hope for better circumstances. They believed that they could never get a chance to live and have equal rights of the privileged Americans, Caucasians.
In August Wilson’s Fences, racial discrimination definitely affected Troy Maxson and his family. They are portrayed as a poor black family living in poverty, and struggling to adjust to life while facing issues of racism, discrimination and segregation during the late 1940’s and early 1950’s. Slavery was long over, but segregation still officially existed in the south and the Civil Rights Movement was yet to come. As in the lives of many African-Americans during that period, occurrences in events such as sports, the housing market, and workplaces in Fences provide strong evidence of how racial discrimination impacted the families daily.
Effects of Segregation Policies
Degrading segregation policies in sports have hurt African-Americans careers and lives. One of the events that was involved in racial discrimination in August Wilson’s fences was non other than Sports. During that time, baseball was one of the most popular and intermediate sports that was ever played, but however it was colored segregated and a lot of blacks who wanted to play were banned and not allowed to play this sport. One of the most historical figures in the Major League Baseball (MLB) that faced discrimination and broke the color line in the racial discrimination era was Jackie Robinson. Jackie Robinson made history by becoming the first African American to play in the MLB, but he had to overcome a lot of obstacles of the racial discrimination era like facing death threats, being hit by objects such as food like peanuts or popcorn, and even bottles of beer or soda; and also having to deal with being called a nigger during, on and off the field everyday as he was playing baseball for the Brooklyn dodgers. In August Wilson’s Fences, “Troy was considered a superior player by the colored league that could have succeeded in baseball within the dominant white society, however, his race and age prohibited the chance for him to play and prove himself in the sport, (Wilsonaugust.blogspot.com).” Both Jackie and Troy loved to play baseball and they both had to face racial discrimination. According to the wilsonaugust.blogspot.com, “When Jackie Robinson joined the Brooklyn Dodgers, Troy will already turned 43. Being so far and beyond his prime time playing days in 1947 that no one in the major league will ever sign him which results in making him angry and keeping him from achieving his American dream of becoming a professional baseball player.” Though racial discrimination was a barrier and set limits, both Jackie Robinson and Troy Maxson were determined and dedicated athletes that provide background for educating future athletes.
Second discrimination/marketing is another type of event that plays a major role in the uncertainty and unsettling in African-American family life and satisfaction. During the 1950’s, a lot of African Americans were migrating from the south to the north during the great migration era. According to civilrights.org, “approximately three million of African Americans had migrated from the south; and with the large- scale departure of white Americans from cities to suburbs, which results in the increase of physical size and selling homes at low prices to African Americans as they were in fear of the declinement of property values.” But, after the sellments of those houses to African Americans, the housing marketings for poor African Americans began to change dramatically; According to the civilrights.org “By mid- twentieth century, federal housing legislation was focused on eliminating substandard living conditions through the clearance of “blighted’’ areas and provided federal subsidies for cities attempting to fix the serious housing shortage in American cities. But however, federally- assisted urban renewal projects demolished about almost 20% of central city housing units that were occupied by African Americans during the 1950’s to the 1970’s as 90% of the low- income housing units that were destroyed by the urban renewal were never replace”.
Approximately 60% of African Americans were displaced by the urban renewal, resulting in more African Americans living in public housing than Whites/Caucasian Americans. In Fences, Troy at that time was struggling to earn and take home money for his family as they were living in poverty. According to the description of the area and workplaces that he was working in, Troy and his family were living in a small and poor condition housing that you see today in apartments in slum buildings or shacks in rural farm areas. These poor living and working conditions demonstrate how difficult and different it was for the blacks/African Americans than the whites back in the 1950’s.
Lynching of African Americans
Bitter events that took place in the racial discrimination era were the lynchings of African Americans. What is lynching? Lynching was a type of action that involves in putting somebody to death by putting a rope around someone’s neck and hanging them by a tree. Lynchings of African Americans were the most incriminating, and horrible actions that have ever taken place in and impacting the lives of African Americans around the world back then. Thousands of African Americans during this time were in fear and full of hatred for the white men as they were being stalked and selected for this brutal murderous action. According to (Berman, Mark 10 Feb. 2015), “Researchers determined that approximately 3,959 African Americans were killed in “racial terror lynchings” in a dozen southern states between 1877 and 1950.” Also according to the chestnutarchive.org, “Most of the lynchings that had happened in the south occurred and were increasing dramatically, because many whites/Caucasians back then felt and believed that after slavery was abolished, the African Americans/blacks were getting too much freedom and felt like that they needed to be more controlled and were also blaming their financial problems on the newly freed. This type of an event can be relevant to the feelings of Troy Maxson and his family, because they too felt terrified and angry that the white/Caucasian people were hurting their race. Throughout the story of Fences, Troy tries to engage life and challenge death because he believes that if he continues to live in fear and let death take a toll on his life and family, then he would feel like he let his family down and himself down. A lot of black people as the Maxsons in Fences are trying to become hardworking citizens and it is ashamed that both the white/Caucasians and blacks can’t get along and work together and it is also ashamed that actions like lynchings can have a lasting impact on every African American citizen both in the past and present.
Changing Life for the Better
After recounting and recalling theses events that had happened during the racial discrimination era, a lot of people, including me, might ask this question how: How will/does racism affect behaviors and relationship and, and do African-American acknowledge and accept change in racial relating since the Civil Rights movement? How will the characters in August Wilson’s Fences perceived and see the change? Well to answer that question: Racism has been going on for years, and a lot of people in the past, present, and future felt like nothing had changed; but they don’t realize that things today are much better than it was back then when every African American in the 1800’s and the 1900’s were enslave, bought and sold, brutally tortured and murdered by racist White/Caucasian Americans. I did not live in that era, but if Troy had lived longer he would no agree that behaviors and relationships have improved and in some respect going along pretty well today than it was back then. Still there are still some people struggling to adjust and getting used to each other as history changes throughout every day, year, month, and decade. This can be relevant to the characters in fences, because throughout his life as a child and adult, Troy Maxson had seen nothing but negativity and he was very hard on his family because he loved them and was afraid of losing them due to these type of racial events and discrimination going on throughout everyday life. Unfortunately, Troy had passed away and wasn’t able to see the changes that had affected everybody that he had known and cared about throughout his life. As the play continued, Rose, Cory, Gabriel, Lyons, and Bono are living well; and even though during that time when everything was going okay they too were struggling to adjust and perceived getting used to the changes that were going around them. The Maxsum, never to forget how hard it was to live life in poverty and to live life as a free and civilized African American people.
Moral of the Play
In Fences, August Wilsonportrayed struggles of racism. He showed racial discrimination, its impact on events in African-American lives and their true feelings about progress during the early 1950’s in events, behaviors and relationships in the lives of the Maxson family. These real life events that had happened during the racial discrimination era at the turn of the century were shown as prominent occurrences in the lives of the Maxson family. The actions and feelings of the Maxson family prove my point on how devious racism could be. Racism back then was very popular and it was also very wrong. It affected many Americans then and still is a practice that greatly impact the American cultures today. We see change but are yet to be treated equal. Color line and racism pose many barriers for African-American as seen in Fences. Over a half of a century later, like Troy many don’t believe that equal privileges will be for all. Just like the events of sports, housing segregation, and lynchings in the racial discrimination era took a toll on every African American and the Maxson family in the 1950’s. In many respects we are still fighting the Civil War.
- ‘Lynching Statistics.’ Lynching Statistics for 1882-1968. N.p., n.d. Web. 05 Dec. 2016.
- ‘Future of Fair Housing: Report of the National Commission on Fair Housing and Equal Opportunity.’ The Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights. N.p., n.d. Web. 05 Dec. 2016.
- Instructor. ‘Defending Troy Maxton from Racial Discrimination in August Wilson.’ Defending Troy Maxton from Racial Discrimination in August Wilson’s Fences. N.p., 30 Apr. 2011. Web. 05 Dec. 2016.
- Berman, Mark. ‘Even More Black People Were Lynched in the U.S. than Previously Thought, Study Finds.’ N.p., 10 Feb. 2015. Web. 5 Dec. 2016.
- Wilson, August, Fences paperback 1986