Category: The African-American Experience


Cartoon.

Hereinafter, I start with an objective description of Kevin Dietsch’s cartoon published on cagle cartoons.com in the year 2008. The subsequent part of the approach is an interpretation including my background knowledge in reference to the African-American history and it finishes off with an justified conclusion.

This black and white cartoon of the year 2008 depicts two dark coloured men in suits on a platform. The black platform consists of two parts whose bigger part is below on which one can read ‘HISTORY’ in white and capital letters. That podium takes nearly the lower half of this image. Being on the way up to the top, the left man whose thin shape, big ears, big chin, thick eyebrows and oval face with few hair are striking, reaches out his right hand for that of the other man.  While his left hand and his left foot search stability on the top of the podium, his right knee backs on the bottom step. His facial expression highlights the effort he makes because due to corners of his mouth just as the position of his eye brows, he is rather curious, discontent and worried. The right man is in ratio to the left male exaggeratively huge that means his width is tripled of the man on the step whereas in comparison, one cannot see the height since the part from the pectoral area upwards is out of sight. The more corpulent and higher man on the right side of the podium wears as well as the left man a black suit with tie and white chemise but in contrast to his fellow, ‘MLK’ is written on his breast pocket and in his left hand he holds a bundle of papers on which ‘ I HAVE A DREAM’ and ‘ 28 August 1963’ is considerable.

With regard to the description, one is capable of associating the two illustrated men with two black man of tremendous importance for the history of African-Americans. The tiny man making his way up, represents Barack Obama, the present US President of America whereas the big one images the prominent leader in the African American civil rights movement Martin Luther King.

The podium on which Martin Luther King is located and on which Barack Obama climbs, shall display their role in history, seeing the captial letters. Considering that the exaggerated physical characteristics remind of these men, the different proportion of the men catches one’s eye. On the one hand, Martin Luther King’s actions as an civil rights activist practicing methods without the use of violence left significant marks on the history of modern American liberalism. On the other hand, due to his death, his time is over and as an unavoidable effect of both aspects, Martin Luther King stands on the top of the podium and is depicted in another ratio. Anyways, Barack Obama climbs up the stairs to the top. He succeeds in holding as the first black the office of  the American president. With reference to this, Obama also poses a milestone in the African-American Experience. Nevertheless, one remarks based on his facial expression his sorrow. That  implicitly conveys that Barack Obama has an arduous path to walk, facing many many troubles and grievances until he is finally able to attain his ends.

 

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In how far is racism present in the movie “Finding Forrester” ?

Along the movie, one recognizes several scenes in which racial discrimination, whether hidden or obvious, are revealed. In the subsequent text, the focus will be put on those aspects in order to show exemplarily that racism still has its significant influence on contemporary society.

The American drama film ” Finding Forrester” of the year 2000, written by Mike Rich and directed by GusVan Sant deals with Jamal Wallace, a black cultivated boy of 16 years living in the Bronx who faces racial hindrance in his life. With the help of the famous but seclusive writer William Forrester, he succeeds in establishing himself as a talented black in the new ‘white private school’, so he overcomes the superficial obstacles.

The first thing to acknowledge is that there is always a separation of blacks and white present. In general, just black and poor people live in the Bronx. Their one and only affinity represents sports, especially basketball. Hence, not intelligence but sportiness deserves appreciation. The former is inevitably connected to embarrassment, so Jamal Wallace just hides his interest in literature and his intelligence in the way that he gets rather bad grades and that he asks his brother not to tell his friends about the outstanding result of the obligatory school test. What is more, Jamal Wallace writes on the quiet in his notebooks which therefore,no one is ever able to read.

In the generalized white view, the blacks are dumbed. A proof for that assumption is the BMW-scene, in which the white man, bringing goods and food for daily consumption to William Forrester, wants to ensure that his car is locked while watching the black youngsters play basketball. As Jamal Wallace notices that reaction, he claims his car just to be one as any other.  In response to that, the white outlines that it is anything but an usual car , it is a BMW. So, he is convinced that the black do not possess any general knowledge. Thus, he is more or less speechless and ashamed when Jamal shows his profound education by pointing out BMW’s history.

Instances to add are the scenes with Claire which underline that there is a separation of blacks and whites. During an event at Claire’s, they both come close to each other but Claire’s father interrupts this relation he is not content with at all. He takes his daughter with him, leaving Jamal alone which emphasizes the discriminative prejudice. In addition, when Claire offers Jamal a relationship, the latter denies referring to the distinct skin color they have and that as a consequence, this relationship would never work.

What is more, Professor Robert Crawford suspects the 16-year-old black boy to cheat since Crawford does not give Jamal credit for his striking literally works. He claims his suspicion to be true as Jamal is just 16 years old, ‘black’ and from the ‘Bronx’ where poverty rules. In this context, Professor Crawford despises and humiliates the boy whenever possible regarding at the literature competition within the school by excluding Jamal from the participation.

Apart from that, the basketball scene is also of importance. In that, Jamal is in a basketball duel with a white boy of ‘white private’ school. It becomes obvious that they both are equally blessed with talent but in the end, the white one states that Jamal may think that they are equal but they are not. This statement refers to the skin color and it highlights implicitly the subordinate position of blacks in that society.

Another example, also a basketball scene reveals hidden racism. Since Jamal is very talented in basketball, he and the school team take part in a competition which is important for the school’s reputation. The basketball coach is trying to make a deal with Jamal  signifying his incompetence, since he offers Jamal a less demanding education so that in return, Jamal is capable of concentrating on sports in a more effective way. This shows indirectly that they suppose the blacks to have a less progressive and mental capacity.

On reflection, one is forced to conclude that whether hidden or obvious, racism is always present in “Finding Forrester” and contributes to the conveyed moral. In the course of the movie, one recognizes its condemned role in our society with regard to the superficiality and the prejudice on which it is based. One must not judge due to the outward appearance.


 


‘CNN podcast’ about the Civil Rights Movement –

Tommie Smith and John Carlos


Reporter I: Welcome to our today’s edition of the CNN podcast series about the Civil Rights Movement. Today we are reporting about the courageous act of Tommie Smith and John Carlos at the 1986 Olympic Games in Mexico.

Reporter II: Tommie Smith, born in Texas on June 5, 1944 and Dr. John Carlos, born in New York exactly one year later, were not only intelligent students but also very talented athletes.

Tommie Smith’s biggest successes were in 1967 and 68 when he set new world records on 200 meters and 400 meters.

John Carlos had similar successes also in those years. After they became popular with sports, Carlos became a founding member of the Olympic Project for Human Rights which organized a boycott of the 1968 Summer Olympics in Mexico City.

Reporter I: After Smith set the world record over 200 meters and became the winner, Carlos made the third place. During the victory ceremony they made a silent protest against racial discrimination.

Standing on the podium they had their heads bowed, each of them raising one fist. They were wearing no shoes, but only black socks symbolising the poverty of the blacks. At their upheld fists, they were wearing black gloves. The right fist represents black power and strength, the left one stands for black unity. Moreover, Smith wore a black scarf expressing black pride.

Reporter II: On the one hand, some praised the men for their bravery, but on the other hand some condemned them. The International Olympic Committee felt that a political statement had no place in the international forum of the Olympic Games and said that this action disgraced all Americans.

As a result, Carlos and Smith were expelled from the Games and banned from further competitions. Once, Smith commented, “If I win, I am an American, not a black American. But if I did something bad then they would say “a Negro”. We are black and we are proud of being black.”

Reporter I: This event also had severe consequences on their private lives: In those days, Smith reported, “We are afflicted with additional discrimination because of our behaviour. Farmers have put dead rates and manure in the post and in response to this my mother died of a heart-attack. What is more, John Carlos had to chop up his furniture in order to have firewood. And his wife committed suicide because the life as an outcast was insufferable. We both have become infamous over night, so that we could not find any jobs.” Consequently, both played football for some seasons and became coaches of different sport teams.

Reporter II: As a final suitable quotation Dr. John Carlos said some weeks ago, “It doesn’t appear that we’ve learnt anything. Forty years have passed and we’re black in the same situation.” Carlos encouraged athletes to follow his example and “go with their hearts and minds”, if they wanted to make statements about human rights.

Reporter I: This was our today’s contribution to John Carlos and Tommie Smith. Thank you for your courage guys and thank you out there for listening. See you next week at the same time when we are reporting about the next key figures in the Civil Right Movement.

Imagine you were one of the persons present at the event described. As  a the Southerner where the events described are rather common, write a diary entry about what you’ve witnessed, describing your thoughts and emotions .

Dear Diary,

Today, a savage day as any other passed by. I do not want to keep on tolerating this but the vicious circle does not permit any solution. Again,  an Afro-American was tortured wrathly and his death was praised by the whites, everywhere. Nowhere, neither on the streets nor at home one could escape this vicious process of mutilation. Exposed to really everyone, the wracked parts of the body represented an attraction for those white monsters. The streets shimmered red since the bloody body was dragged along many streets, for many many miles. Like animals, the hundreds of whites crowded around the corpse in order to transform their anger and furiousness in aggressive, bloody and murderous actions. To smell the odor of blood, to witness the lynching, to see the people hung on trees like strange fruits, terrifiyng. The bloody fruits of white misbehaviour. Though this inconceivable operation is done in daily routine, I am shivering, if I even think about that intolerance, injustice and indifference.  Each and every very breath of the blacks must be filled with suffering and fear of being victimised in the same cruel and inhuman manner. It must be hell to live in anguish and oppression. Not only disgrace on the whites but also humiliation of the blacks take place. It is just a matter of immaturity that in our society, the peoples and races are not considered as equal. Convinced of the white supremacy, they suppress unrightfully the egal blacks. Why are the whites so keen on being superior? They are not. Not in any kind. Not in any case, it is reasonable that discrimination overwhelms fairness. It is of tremendous importance to distinguish the right from the wrong and this is obviously not yet achieved, a pitty. If they just could put themself in the place of the blacks ! They would alter, I suppose. Enlightment must revolt in the people’s mind. The happenings of the presence violate ethical values! Happiness and peaceful  coexistence will never be achieved as a purpose if equality is not provided.  I feel so sorry for the actions of my fellow men but I do not have the power to set against everyone else. En enormous pressure is put on me. If I buck the system, the same sake that I am profoundedly afraid of, would befall me. Sadly, I lack for courage. On the one hand, the wrongs arouse compassion but on the other hand, my hands are tied. I am really grieved.

Bye xoxo

Strange Fruit

Find adjectives that describe emotions people who have been present at the events in the song might have had.

positive: amazed, surprised, astonished, impressed, mobile, impassioned, fascinated, stunned, speechless, excited, keen, enthusiastic, spirited, inspired,  encouraged, patriotisitc, proud, strengthened, delighted, touched

negative: amazed, surprised, astonished, impressed, mobile , impassioned, stunned, speechless, excited, shocked, shattered, shaken, humiliated, mortified, discouraged, sad, stifling, empty, weakened, touched

indifferent: immobile, meaningless, apathetic, uncaring, cool, detached, impervious,  negligent, incurious

neutral: immobile, meaningless, apathetic, uncaring, cool, detached, impervious,  negligent, incurious

disgusted: nauseated, grossed out, distasteful, cloyed, detested, abhorred, execrated, scunnered, loathed, touched, mobile, outraged

frightened: scared, anguished, painfull, sad, grievous, cruel, dolorous, anxious, tmid, worried, intimidated, nervous, shy, mobile, touched

confused: surprised, amazed, astonished, inconscient, irritated, adle, bedlam, muddled, touched, perplexed, distracted

aggressive: violent, touched, raged, mad, furious, angry, enraged, wrathy, combative, abrasive

Hope for the Future

Of Mr Booker T. Washington

(published 1903) W.E.B. DuBois

In the followoing essay I will compare Booker T. Washington’s ideas about the future of coloured people with those of W.E.B. DuBois in”Of Mr Booker T. Washington” written from W.E.B. DuBois and published in 1903 in order to reckon the similarities and distinctions.

Both, Booker T. Washington and W.E.B. DuBois are abolitionists that means they oppose slavery and want to abolish that suppressive system. They aim education for the blacks but each in a different extent as Washington purposes the more industrial education for the “inferior” men to achieve more wealthiness for the South and conciliation (ll21f.), while DuBois intends to cultivate them in the same way as they do with the whites, so the target is higher education.  The opinions differ if one considers the aspect of equality since DuBois demands human and political rights for everyone whether black or white. Thus, he wants to get rid of the distinction between races and put those  “inferior” on the same level as the ” superior” in society. But contrary to that, Washington states his interest in blacks to give up the fight for their rights because it would have contraproductive effects on economy and it would confront his way of thinking about the ” skilled worker”. He requests the abandonment of “political power, the insistence on civil rights and higher eductaion of the Negro Youth” (ll.20f.).

As a conclusion, one can outline that both, Booker T. Washington and W.E.B.  DuBois image the future of coloured people as freer than in that days but  the difference is in the extent of freedom and equality since Booker T. Washington puts the focus on economy and own interest, he prefered the more limiting version of rights for the blacks whilst W.E.B.  asks for non-restrictioning rights if they are based on race-thinking.

Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass

Describe Frederick’s mistress and the way she changes.

Hereinafter, the development of the mistress’ character in the “Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass” written by Frederick Douglass, will be depicted.

In the beginning the misstress treated everyone equally and supported the ones in need for instance the starving people. What is more, she instructed Frederick Douglass to write and to read though the society was split up into the whites and the blacks and the education of the latter was not only forbidden but also persecuted and punished hard. Therefore, the mistress’ character traits are outlined as kind, pious & warm ( l.4,  l.19). She radiated a lamb-like attitude with heavenly qualities and a lack of the wicked (l.23,l.8,ll.19f.). After the master’s instruction, this can be seen in the process of change as the mistress did not succeed in an immediate alteration but in a change step-by-step (ll.8f.)  Following the transformation of the mistress’ ethical values, her character traits turned out to be the contrary as before. Now her heart turned to stone and the lamb-like disposition changed to tiger-like fierceness (ll.24f.). In accordance with her husband, she victimized the slave and even become more violent than Mr Hugh and conducted surveillance and suspicion because she now shared the opinion that education and slavery wre incompatible with each other (ll.36f.,ll.32).

The Slave Auction

– Frances Ellen Watkins Harper

The sale began—young girls were there,
Defenseless in their wretchedness,
Whose stifled sobs of deep despair
Revealed their anguish and distress.
And mothers stood, with streaming eyes,
And saw their dearest children sold;
Unheeded rose their bitter cries,
While tyrants bartered them for gold.
And woman, with her love and truth—
For these in sable forms may dwell—
Gazed on the husband of her youth,
With anguish none may paint or tell.
And men, whose sole crime was their hue,
The impress of their Maker’s hand,
And frail and shrinking children too,
Were gathered in that mournful band.
Ye who have laid your loved to rest,
And wept above their lifeless clay,
Know not the anguish of that breast,
Whose loved are rudely torn away.
Ye may not know how desolate
Are bosoms rudely forced to part,
And how a dull and heavy weight
Will press the life-drops from the heart.

Poem Analysis

Frances Ellen Watkins Harper’s poem ” The Slave Auction”  treats the cruel and inhuman process of slave trade from the perspective of the victims. Hereinafter, I will analyse the rhetorical devices in order to highlight their role in conveying the poet’s message to the target group.

To begin with, the poem’s form shall be analysed. It is composed of 24 verses with the end rhyme and the matching rhyme scheme is the alternate rhyme whilst the foot is represented by the iamb.  Considering those facts, all these have the effect of regularity and continuousness, showing that slave auctions are already a part of everyday life. The number of words with negative connotations dominates so the choice of words also conveys the author’s negative opinion towards slave trade.

The poem is not divided into stanzas but one can differ it, if one regards the content/change in structure as from line 17 on, the speaker uses with ‘ Ye’ the direct address while before, only subjective descriptions can be seen.

In the verses 5, 9 and 10, an anaphora and a parallelism is to find which stresses the anguish and the innocence of the black men who are concerned. The verse 10 is also an instance for a paradoxon since not only nowadays but actually ever valid, the skin colour can not be deemed as an offence in court.

And mothers stood with streaming eyes, (l.5)

And woman, with her love and truth- (l.9)

And men, whose sole crime was their hue, (l.10)

It has to be added that the author uses figurative language in the whole couse of the poem for instance in the lines from 17 to 18 or from 23 to 24.  This language is facilitating the conveyance of emotions drastically since it uses metaphorical comparisons.

Ye who have laid your loved to rest, (l.17)
And wept above their lifeless clay, (l.18)
And how a dull and heavy weight (l.23)
Will press the life-drops from the heart. (l.24)
Apart from that, the repetition of certain words as ‘anguish’ in the lines 4,12 and 19 creates an impression of an oppressive atmosphere.
What is more, there are alliterations for instance in line 3 causing the consequence of underlining the grievous misery, the victims are in. So does the assonance in the preceding line 2.
Whose stifled sobs of deep despair (l.3)
Defenseless in their wretchedness, (l.2)
As a result of all these rhetorical devices and their effects, a gloomy mood is created. This feeling is supported especially by the figurative language and concludes with the close correspondence between the content and the form as both convey the sorrowfulness of  “The Slave Auction”.

A Soul in Chains

-Frederick Douglass

The text ” A Soul in Chains” an excerpt of ” A Narrative Life of Frederick Douglass” written by Frederick Douglass in 1845, deals with his everyday life as a slave in America.

The slaves are not accepted as legal citizens of the USA but as property. That is the reason why slaveholders are not restricted in any matter in behaving towards those because there is no protection by law. Slaves are hold in most of the cases on plantations or farms in groups of dozens to hundreds. In this period of slavery, each  adult is given a certain extent of food and clothing which border nothing. Neither privileges, nor liberties for example of education but violence and subordination define life.  In general, torture plays a siginficant role in daily routine since it is used to treat troublesome labourers and to demonstrate the superior’s power. At labour, the obedient slaves have to work hard and are often punished by savage, severe and vicious overseers. Despite that, they must work on 6 of 7 days in all weathers with just 1 day of leisure and with a lack of sleep due to the fact that apart from the job on the field, slaves run a houshold, too, for instance mending, cooking, preparing the field for the next day et cetera.  As a consequence, slaves are broken in body, soul and spirit.