Although slavery in America was legally abolished in 1865, the tension between different racial groups remained well into the 20th century and beyond. While the South continued to be a place of extreme racism and increasing violence, the North appeared to be a bit more accommodating, although still not a true area of equality. This difference can be seen in two literary works, Anne Moody’s autobiography, Coming of Age in Mississippi, and Nella Larsen’s novel, Passing. These illustrate the contrast between North and South, and the struggles that black women had to endure in the twentieth century. Most of the legislation passed and movements relating to the rights of both minorities and women occurred during the twentieth century. Even in this modern era, giant leaps were taken to make equality a reality for a massive number of Americans.
Following the Civil War, the majority of blacks in the South remained where they were, as their rural farming skills were really only needed in the plantations of the South. Furthermore, the former slaves considered family to be an extremely important part of one another’s lives, and didn’t want to leave family members behind by moving north. The children of these former slaves, and many generations following, were subject to the racism that had long been in the hearts and minds of those living in the South. This racial bias can be seen blatantly in Coming of Age in Mississippi. Throughout the Civil Rights Movement, blacks were treated with disdain and contempt, especially in the South.
A slight contrast to this is the treatment of blacks in the North during the twentieth century. Passing tells the story of two women that could, because of their light skin tone, “pass” off as whites. Although this is a work of fiction, it illustrates a very real way of life for blacks in the North. The northern states had long been known as a safer, more accepting place for blacks, although segregation was