A Raisin in the Sun

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Throughout the 1950s, segregation was prominent in America. In the play, A Raisin in the Sun, by Lorraine Hansberry, each character faces racial discrimination. Many of the characters have hopes and aspirations; they all strive towards their goals throughout the play. However, many of the characters in the play have to face numerous difficulties. Segregation and the treatment of African Americans in the 1950s will undoubtedly affect the dreams of Walter Lee and Beneatha. Blatant racism and segregation began to diminish and many young African American males in the 1950s were given opportunity. Even though work was scarce, some young African American males were able find work. The jobs available were low paying service jobs, such as a chauffeur or a shoe shiner, It was hard for a young black man to support himself, yet alone his family with the wages he received. Agricultural work diminished due to the use of new machines. The mechanical cotton picker pushed a wave of African Americans out of the South and into the North. Between 1940 and 1960, Chicago’s black population grew from 278,000 to 813,000. While in Chicago, some African American men found industrial jobs, but the shift to postindustrial labor hit them particularly hard. World War II brought even more change. As African Americans enlisted in the military, they also moved up the blue collar ladder to careers such firefighting. After World War II a new movement for civil rights began. African Americans started to have more confidence and believe more in themselves. They had served for their country with honor during the war and in the North many Blacks started living in better conditions. A new group came to life, the NAACP (the National Association for the Advancement of Coloured People). It attracted many members and received support from both Blacks and Whites. The Civil Rights act gave African Americans an opportunity in life. In A Raisin in the Sun, Walter Lee is an African American male who has big dreams, but he is continually angry and frustrated by his family, friends, and society. Walter has a steady, but low paying job and wishes that he could do more for his family. The money he makes hardly provides enough for his family to survive. He is constantly thinking about get rich quick schemes to insure a better life. He doesn’t want to be a poor back man all of his life and wishes that he could fit in with rich whites. He doesn’t realize that people won’t give him the same opportunities, as they would if he were white. Walter feels that he needs to provide more for his family and starts to ask around on how to make some money. He gets the idea of opening up a liquor store and has his heart set on it. Walter wants to please everybody; he loses his better judgment and acts without thinking of the long-term effects. He is ready for a change and feels the store will bring his family a better life. “Mama, a job? I open and close car doors all day long. I drive a man around in his Limousine and say, Yes, sir; no, sir; very good sir; shall I take the drive, sir? Mama, that ain’t no kind of job ... that ain’t nothing at all” (Hansberry pg. 73). Even though he doesn’t have money he won’t let others see that and acts as if he has some to spare. On one occasion, Travis needs money for school and his mother said no. Walter stepped in and gave him the money and some extra to get something different. After he had done so, he had to ask his Ruth for money because he had to go somewhere. The money situation was causing a big problem.

Segregation and racism began to reduce and African American women were also given opportunity. African American women were able to find low paying jobs such as a housekeeper or a nursing aid. Businesses began opening their doors to them as employees. Hospitals began to add African American Nurses, attendants, and support employees. Also some department stores and textile factories began welcoming qualified applicants...
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