African American Literature
TH- 1:00-2:45 p.m.
Professor: Linda Johnson-Burgess Spring 2011
It is evident today that the black man and woman alike have achieved what seemed an impossible feat; a pipe dream just about one hundred and fifty years ago during the Reconstruction Period. Today for example, the black man can speak on the national television, own his own business, attend a predominantly white school and even publicly voice his displeasure without getting persecuted. To sum it up, the kind of beastly racism that involved lynching, public vitriol, and aggression against blacks has drastically changed into a more covert one. The opening remarks in Brent Campney’s article in the magazine, Western Historical Quarterly, hint at the task that the black community still had in their quest for dignity even after the civil war. In the introductory remarks of the article, the author laments, “In the aftermath of the war, however, white Kansas made a mockery of the Union’s optimism. Unleashing a campaign of violence aimed at enforcing their supremacy over blacks in the young state’’ (Campney 172). We find that the black community was faced with an uphill task in their quest for equality to their white counterparts even after the civil war. Kansas making a mockery of thee Union means that as per the wish of the Union that blacks would be free and appreciated after they helped the Union crush the Confederacy, the white community in Kansas turned against them with racially instigated violence aimed at them. The Union had thus made an assumption when they thought that with the end of the civil war came the unanimous appreciation of blacks from their white counterparts. Blacks had to do much more than just help crush the Confederacy forces if they were going to earn most of their basic rights. The beginning of the article in the magazine, Western Historical Quarterly, shows how the whites succeed in restricting black rights and discouraging white radicals and moderates from supporting or being sympathetic to blacks. According to Campney, “A moderate suggested as much after an 1873 lynching, when he found himself isolated in his indignation. “The general impression” among townspeople, he lamented, was that the incident was “all right” and that those who objected to it were “old fogies” (Campney 177). The white folks of Kansas resorted to isolating those whites who held contrary opinion to the atrocities committed against blacks. Blacks were maimed and lynched, some were hang while others were victims of scathing verbal attacks and the few dissenting whites’ opinion was suppressed through majority views. This is just but an example of the task that lay ahead of the black man before he could earn his dignity and complete freedom in the society. The central topic of discussion in Gretchen Bakke’s article in the magazine, Anthroprological Quarterly, is how the black men have developed from the fringe and less dominant roles they played in films to more combative and heroic displays in movies today. Bakke asserts: This shift in the black man’s role, from decorative expendability to that of tentative- killer of-others (in the 1980s and early 90s) to their increasingly common position at present as both massacrers and good guys, has been, I will argue, a mythic—and quite popular way—of reconstituting and expanding race in US popular culture along very specific and, once articulated, easily recognizable lines (Bakke 402).
One of the impediments to blacks’ total freedom over the years following slavery is the general impression that they can only play second fiddle to their white counterparts. This impression was perpetuated over generations in virtually all...
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