Particularly in Harlem During the 1950’s
In the Baldwin’s story, Sonny’s Blues, the author portrays African -Americans in the urban life. Even though he writes about reconciliation of two brothers, who are trying to overcome their differences and to come to understand each other, the story shows the meaning of Jazz in African American culture, particularly in Harlem during 1950.
The urban life in Harlem has being described by many authors, including James Baldwin. The life of an African American man in this place during the 1950’s was a “disaster”, “faces and bodies” […] were “trapped in the darkness” (Baldwin n.pag). It was a time prior to the Civil Rights Movement, the time of segregation and unjust. Baldwin writes about black and very poor neighborhood in Harlem, where people were struggling to survive in the racist society. The author describes Harlem as a place where “the wages of sin were visible everywhere, in every wine-stained and urine-splashed hallway” (Baldwin n.pag).. The living conditions were horrible and not safe: “Safe, hell!” (Baldwin n.pag). In the 1950s most whites and black middle class had left Harlem, the crime and drug addiction rates were higher than anywhere in the United States. Baldwin portrays Harlem as a place where people can feel danger-
“in every clanging ambulance bell, in every scar on the faces of the pimps and their whores, in every helpless, newborn baby being brought into this danger, in every knife and pistol fight on the Avenue, and in every disastrous bulletin: a cousin, mother of six, suddenly gone mad, the children parceled out here and there; an indestructible aunt rewarded for years of hard labor by a slow, agonizing death in a terrible small room; someone's bright son blown into eternity by his own hand; another turned robber and carried off to jail. Crime became real, for example--for the first time--not as a possibility but as the possibility. (Sherard n.pag)
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