The plight of african americans in the early 1990s
The Plight of African-Americans in the Early 1900s
The African-American civil movements are among the most prolific events in the country. William Edward Burghardt Du Boi in his poem The Song of the Smoke advocates for social justice and unification of Americans’ irrespective of racial and cultural backgrounds. Strangely enough, he does this by figuratively describing the plight of the Black community before and even after the Civil War. The poem is highly symbolic and takes a considerable effort to underline the central themeCITATION Wil07 p 1-5 l 1033 (Dubois 1-5). The poet does this to avoid legal repercussions associated with activism and to invoke a sense of moral accountability among readers. Du Bois was a privileged young Black man who studies at both Fisk and Harvard Universities. As a result, he wanted to use academic skills to fight for the rights of the minorities in America. He wrote the poem in the backdrop of the emancipation era in 1907. The public, at that time, strived to limit racially divisive language and policies. The contents of the poem iterate the information from his earlier publications; these would include “The Suppression of the African Slave Trade, The Philadelphia Negro, and The Souls of Black Folk”CITATION Hol00 p n.p l 1033 (Holt n.p). This article proposes a new and refreshing take of activism in the academic field. The poem elaborates the struggle for civil rights among Black people in the early twentieth century.
Dubois focuses his work on exploring the effects of slavery and finding practical solutions. The first stanza captures the interest of readers through the use of suspense. The poet urges people to stand up and defend their legacy. He iterates the words “I am the Smoke King, I am black”CITATION Wil07 p 1-2 l 1033 (Dubois 1-2). In so doing, the lines create a longing to understand why the author releases a ‘call to duty’ message. He acknowledges his fragility as smoke and the consequences of being dark skinned. The stanza sets a sympathetic tone necessary for educating the readers on racism. The plot of the poem propels every African American to feel proud of their identity. The climax of the story comes when the persona describes himself as a king; the title refers to royalty and all the rewards associated with power and prosperity. Moreover, most families passed the need for positive thinking as a means of protecting the next generation of Blacks from self-hatred. This phenomenon explains why a large percentage of Blacks share political and racial attitudesCITATION Ach14 p 34 l 1033 (Acharya, Blackwell and Sen 34). Transmission of beliefs from one generation to the next fosters cohesion and protects the population from hostile outsiders.
Interesting enough, the next section covers the challenges faced by Blacks in the better part of 20th century. The author utilizes his critical skills to touch on racial discrimination in the last decades. He uses simple but highly sensual words to express his anguish in certain trends. For example, “I am swinging in the sky” CITATION Wil07 p 3 l 1033 (Dubois 3) develops from the common practice of lynching or hanging by the neck when Slave Owners sought out punishments. A Black Corpse swinging in mid-air sent cloud flashes among the living slaves. To avoid such punishments, the slaves worked as observed from “I am the thought of the throbbing mills” CITATION Wil07 p 5 l 1033 (Dubois 5). Avidit Acharya, Matthew Blackwell, and Maya Sen in their article The Political Legacy of American Slavery asserts that the agricultural sector in the South grew due to the hard work of slaves. They affirm that “Southern white elites had to find quick access to low-cost labor, which in turn gave them an incentive to expand racial violence and anti-black attitude”CITATION Ach14 p 31 l 1033 (Acharya, Blackwell and Sen 31). This source supports evidence produced by Dubois about the physical torture of slaves. The situation affected this particular group to the point of seeking spiritual satisfaction. The poet implies this point by saying “I am whirling home to God”CITATION Wil07 p 9 l 1033 (Dubois 9). The quest for higher power suggests that the level of suppression was debilitative.
After an exciting discussion on racial discrimination, Dubois offers a lasting strategy aimed at raising black pride. He attempts to gather some comfort in knowing that their painful ordeal boosted their resilience as a race. From the line, “I am wreathing broken hearts” CITATION Wil07 p 14 l 1033 (Dubois 14), this individual acknowledges the pain affecting his black brothers and sisters. Fortunately, he urges them to find strength in the fact that they came out more powerful. In a way, the line “I am sheathing love’s light darts” CITATION Wil07 p 15 l 1033 (Dubois 15) seeks to explore the importance of being optimistic. The persona finds closure in passively implying that the past is an inspiration source and not a source of pain and emotional turmoil. The early 1900s saw the liberation of some services in favor of Blacks. However, the emancipation was not instant and considerable parts of the South were hesitant to enact the policyCITATION Zac13 p n.p l 1033 (Klitzman n.p). Their reaction showed a level of discipline obtained from generations of slaves classically conditioned to work and ask for little or no reimbursement. In fact, it reinstates the idea of mental prison present in some of the slaves. They did not comprehend how to live without submitting to another human being.
On top of this, the poem recognizes that there are merits associated with Blacks despite the historical injustices. Notwithstanding, Dubois provides a brief comparative analysis of why Blacks are favorable compared to White. A good example is “For Blackness was ancient ere whiteness began”CITATION Wil07 p 29 l 1033 (Dubois 29). The line suggests that the African American population has a superior and classic origin that surpasses the information at that time. Dubois knew this from his knowledge of different in his studies CITATION Hol00 p n.p l 1033 (Holt n.p). As such, the poem inspires the creation of interracial groups and supports of cultural heritage. These statements indirectly weaken the white supremacy ideology in the Western Culture. More so, the statement “I am daubing God in the night, I am swabbing Hell in White” (30-31) proves that they innately encouraged themselves to conserve their culture and denounce their owner’s way of life. They came up with a sociocultural technique of keeping their minds free despite physical bondage.
The last stanza provides a taste of what Dubois wishes for the future. In the first place, he hopes that his black colleagues felt at home in the country and be proud of their ancestry. Captivatingly, he does this by restating the verses “I am the Smoke King, I am black” (33-34). Then he opposes the concept of racism by refuting any unhealthy use of race as a categorizing variable. He reportedly said, “I whiten my Black men-I blacken my white”CITATION Wil07 p 39 l 1033 (Dubois 39). He summarizes all these information by declaring that the color of the skin is not an effective measure of personal worth. Additionally, the statement forecasts the expectations of a fair and equitable society after the transition period. Dubois wants people to face good and bad outcomes depending on their characters and outward responses. Similarly, the primary objective for the poem was to recognize that racial equality was paramount for socioeconomic growth of any culturally diverse region. Dubois wanted to subconsciously alert Blacks that slavery ended decades ago and that they are powerful and can mingle with other races with no obvious problems as per the constitution.
Conclusively, the poem by Dubois targets the minorities and those willing to change the lives of others. It connotes to the plight of African Americans at a period of discoveries and worth as American citizens. The poet knew the challenges of being non-White despite the emancipation but felt that things would improve. The slaves went from physical torture to owning land and controlling their freedom. Dubois depends on black pride, challenges facing Blacks in the early 1900s, and comparison of races to make his thesis clear. It is noteworthy to remember that the poet used friendly tones to praise African Americans without throwing negative comments about its oppressors. This intimate dialogue functions to motivate interracial communication and economic growth in America. The first and second sections of the paragraphs explore black pride and racism extensively. More so, the third and fourth parts offer solutions to the ordeal such as positive thinking and community cohesion. As the last stanza instigates, Dubois came to teach the two prominent races, Blacks, and Whites, about co-existence and healing from the pre-Civil War era. The poem gives a general perspective of pre-war America for this particular population.
BIBLIOGRAPHY l 1033 Acharya, Avidit, Matthew Blackwell and Maya Sen. “The Political Legacy of American Slavery.” 16 November 2014. Stanford University. web.stanford.edu/~avidit/slavery.pdf. Accessed 16 July 2018
Dubois, William Edward. The Song of the Smoke. New York: Horizon Magazine, 1907.
Holt, Thomas C. “Du Bois, W.E.B.(23 February 1868-27 August 1963).” February 2000. American National Biography. www.anb.org/view/10.1093/anb/9780198606697.001.0001/anb-9780198606697-e-1500191. Accessed 16 July 2018
Klitzman, Zach. “Black Reaction to the Emancipation Proclamation.” 02 February 2013. President Lincoln’s Cottage. www.lincolncottage.org/black-reaction-to-the-emancipation-proclamation/. Accessed 16 July 2018.
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