The Lesson by: Toni Cade Bambara

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The Sixties, in America, was famously known as the years of the Cultural Revolution. It was a socially and politically chaotic period for America. In Toni Cade Bambara’s short story, “The Lesson”, she exposes the injustices and inequalities imposed on African Americans of that time. “…she’s boring us silly about what things cost and what our parents make… and how money ain’t divided up right in this country. And then… about we all poor and live in the slums” (Bambara 137). During the time in which Bambara’s story was written, black children weren’t well educated and education was, most likely, the least of their priorities, which can be seen from Sylvia’s point of view when she states “… I’m really hating this nappy-head bitch and her goddamn college degree. I’d much rather go to the pool or the show where it’s cool” (Bambara 136). Equally important, during this time, it was rare for African American children to see someone walking down the street in crisp clean clothes such as Miss Moore, “who always looked like she was going to church, though she never did” (Bambara 136), especially if he or she was your ordinary average person, kind of like Miss Moore. Additionally, it wasn’t on a regular basis Sylvia and Sugar would roam to the popular Fifth Avenue in New York City. This is made clear, when Miss Moore takes Sylvia and the other kids to F.A.O. Schwarz and Sylvia says, “Everybody dressed up in stockings. One lady in a fur coat, hot as it is. White folks is crazy” (Bambara 137). Moreover, in the Sixties throughout the Seventies, African American children felt hesitant to go into unfamiliar stores and shops, especially those in downtown NY which Bambara expresses when Sylvia says, “So me and Sugar turn the corner to where the entrance is, but when we get there I kinda hang back… I feel funny, shame. What to be shamed about? Got as much right to go in as anybody. But I can’t seem to get hold of the door” (Bambara 139). Again, situations such...
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