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Big Black Good Man

By | June 2006
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"Big Black Good Man"

In 1957 Richard Wright wrote "Big Black Good Man" in reference to what had been going on in Little Rock, Arkansas. "Big Black Good Man" is one of many short stories in a collection call "Eight Men" (Reuben). At the time President Eisenhower sent paratroopers to Little Rock to stop the violence over desegregation of the public schools. During this time in the United States prejudice had become a big issue. Richard Wright was raised in the south and was aware of the racial issues that he grew up before he had moved to Chicago (Rayson). "Big Black Good Man" expresses the thoughts and feelings of a white protagonist. The ways people judge each other based on looks can lead to false assumptions of how an individual is represented. You can't judge a book by its cover and you certainly can't judge a person by their color. Olaf Jenson is a night porter who learns a lesson about being prejudice.

The story takes place in Copenhagen, Denmark at a hotel for sailors and students. Olaf Jenson, a short and stout white male, works for a hotel checking in and out customers that come to stay for the night. Sailors come in from different parts of the world looking for a place to stay while making requests for women and whisky. Olaf, who just turned sixty, remembers what it's like to be young and often assists the sailors with their requests. It was a rainy night and Olaf was at work, sitting back and toasting to himself for tomorrow he turned sixty. He took a puff off his cigar and finished his beer. As he begins to get ready to take a nap for it was late into the night, a customer shows up at the door. "Olaf sat up slowly, not to answer but to look at this brooding black vision; it towering darkly some six and a half feet into the air, almost touching the ceiling and its skin was so black it had a bluish tint" (Wright 234). This is the very first moment that Olaf meets Jim, a sailor that comes to stay for a few days at the hotel. Olaf is very intimidated...
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