ENG 102 Dr. Sharma
African American Culture and History
“Everyday Use” is a story written by Alice Walker. In the story the characters struggle with their culture and what it means to them. Dee, who is the main character, is a teenager who wants to learn more about the African American culture, but she goes about it a different way. Many African Americans struggle with keeping their culture alive in the United States. Trying to understand the identity within the culture of the United States is quite difficult. That’s why the family in “Everyday Use” struggles to recognize what their culture means to them. According to New Georgia Encyclopedia. Alice Walker, who is the author of “Everyday Use”, is a Pulitzer Prize-winning, African-American novelist and poet. She was a social worker and also a teacher, who took part in the 1960’a Civil Rights movement in Mississippi. Walker’s early life was tough. Having 8 siblings, her mother worked as a maid to help support their large family. When Walker was 8 years old, she suffered a serious injury: She was shot in the right eye with a BB pellet while playing with two of her brothers. After that incident, she shut out the world and kept to herself, which led her to begin writing poetry. Walker began publishing her fiction and poetry during the latter years of the Black Arts movement in the 1960s. Her work, along with that of such writers as Toni Morrison and Gloria Naylor, however, is commonly associated with the post-1970s surge in the African American women's movement. Walker has taught African American women's studies to college students at Wellesley, the University of Massachusetts at Boston, Yale, Brandeis, and the University of California at Berkeley. She supports antinuclear and environmental causes, and her protests against the oppressive rituals of female circumcision in Africa and the Middle East make her a vocal advocate for international women's rights. A lot of the African American history is told through oral tradition. USHistory.org says Folk tales were passed down from generation to generation. Although slavery greatly restricted the ability of Africans in America to practice their cultural traditions, many practices, values and beliefs survived and over time have incorporated elements of European American culture. There are even certain parts of African American culture that were brought into being or made more important as a result of slavery; an example of this is how drumming became used as a means of communication and establishing a community identity during that time. The result is a creative culture that has had and continues to have a intense impact on mainstream American culture and on world culture as well. After Emancipation, these African American traditions continued to grow. They developed into clear traditions in music, art, literature, religion, food, holidays, etc (USHisory.org) In “Everyday Use,” Alice Walker tells a story of a mother’s conflicted relationship with her two daughters. On its surface, “Everyday Use” tells how a mother gradually rejects the superficial values of her older, successful daughter in favor of the practical values of her younger, less fortunate daughter. On a deeper level, Alice Walker is exploring the concept of heritage as it applies to African-Americans. “Everyday Use” is set in the late ‘60s or early ‘70s. At this time African-Americans were struggling to define their personal identities in cultural terms. The term “Negro” had been recently removed from the vocabulary, and had been replaced with “Black.” There was “Black Power,” “Black Nationalism,” and “Black Pride.” Many blacks wanted to rediscover their African roots, and were ready to reject and deny their American heritage, which was filled with stories of pain and injustice. In “Everyday Use,” Alice Walker argues that an African-American is both African and American, and to deny...
Cited: Ushistory.org. "A New African-American Culture." Ushistory.org. Independence Hall Association, n.d. Web. 23 Nov. 2014.
White, David. "White. “Everyday Use”: Defining African-American Heritage." White. “Everyday Use”: Defining African-American Heritage. Purdue North Central Literary Journal, 2001. Web. 24 Nov. 2014.
Whitted, Qiana. "Alice Walker (b. 1944)." New Georgia Encyclopedia. N.p., 18 Sept. 203. Web. 24 Nov. 2014
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