Angelou and Baldwin: Prejudice

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People have always had a problem with difference. Throughout history minority groups have been subjected to incredible prejudice and discrimination. Although discrimination affects all types of people, the African American population has had a particularly difficult time in their fight for equality. Writers have devoted many essays to trying to change this prejudice. Throughout the development of their essays, Maya Angelou in "Graduation" and James Baldwin in "If Black Language isn't a Language, Then Tell Me, What Is?" show that their struggles have shaped them into people of character and integrity through an important lesson that is taught to them about self worth.

Facing the reality of prejudice in a society that insists on equality was a difficult task for Maya Angelou. In the essay "Graduation" is her account of her graduation from a racially segregated high school. "Separate but equal" school systems allowed the Caucasian students to attend one school, and the African Americans to attend another; they were never equal. While the black school offered a less quality education, Maya Angelou was able to grasp more knowledge through her struggle, than even the speaker that evening. In Donleavy's speech he explained that "The white kids were going to have chance to become Galileos and Madame Curies and Edisons and Gauguins, and our boys (the girls weren't even in on it) would try to be Jesse Owenses and Joe Louises"(37). The message of the speech destroys the graduation until the brave words of Henry Reed, Angelou's friend. Henry's speech entitled "To Be or Not to Be" was given after Donleavy's speech. Maya Angelou at hearing this title in her piece says "Hadnt he heard the whitefolks? We couldn't be, so the question was a waste of time"(39). As Henry begins to speak, Maya Angelou continues to believe that "There was no ‘nobler in the mind' for Negroes because the world didn't think we had minds, and they let us know it"(39). At this point in her...
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