Theme Paper for Genres of African American Literature
Intro - Theme Paper for Genres of African American Literature introduction. To African American Lit. 202-05 Professor McCollin October 19, 2012 Theme Essay The introduction to African American literature course can be broken up into time periods and styles of writing. Four very popular styles of writings include the folklore and traditions, slave narrative, rural, and urban living genres that bring about different depictions of African American life. In this paper, these four genres will be analyze with themes and dramatizations to further emphasize the point and realness of each excerpt. In the folklore and traditions section of the text used in this course, Stagolee, on page 74 stood out amongst the rest.
In this excerpt, Stagolee, the main character, comes off as nonchalant, hard, and rigid. His actions and gangster-like persona causes him to earn the reputation of a “bad man”. Through discussion, it was learned that his “bad man” type of behavior struck fear, envy, and/or idolization within the people he encountered. This bad behavior which often times lead to violence can be looked at as theme for this particular piece of literature. Below is a fictional account of Stagolee’s bad man lifestyle. May Lyons testimony on the passing of her brother Billy Lyons by Stagolee: “That damn Stagolee.
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Always walkin’ in the juke late with an attitude. As if the world dun paid him no attention. He sit in that same spot, o’er there in that corner, just watchn’ with that grimace on his face. I often thought about askin him why he was so mean. But I aint ready to die. That damn Stagolee has a temper and a trigger finger as quick as a project roach. I seen him walkin’ down Peach Ave and hit a man in the face with the butt of his revolver. All cause he starred to long. I guess that’s what you get when you mess with the damn Stagolee. He was a baaaaad man. And not in a good way. He even made my older brother scared.
He wont say it, but every night Billy says “May Lyons, don’t you be tryin to be the voice of reason for that man, he got gasoline draws and up to his waist in his grave, you cant help him girl”. I guess he was right. But I learn the hard way. Should have known that damn Stagolee was set in his ways and who was I to change him. That damn Stagolee ruined my life. Stagolee asked me to get him a dry whiskey. I had three orders in front of me but he aint care. He pulled out his 45 and said “Ho, if you don’t make my damn drank, you gon see yo heavenly father a lot sooner than judgment day”. I can even tell you what I poo’d in that man cup.
I slid that drank down the bar so fast half of it spilled on his hand before he could fully grab it. You know Stagolee was mad then. He started hoopin’ and hollen, causin a scene, talkin’ bout how ima pay for spillin his drink. My boss came out and told Stagolee to calm down before Billy come down here. Stagolee wont scared. Fifteen minutes later Billy runnin in questionin people about that damn Stagolee’s whereabouts. All I knew next the lights went out and my poor brother was layin on the ground. Shirt all bloody, eyes locked on me. I ran o’er there and held Billy til God took his soul. My heart died that day.
Billy told me to leave Stagolee be. Why I aint just walk the cup to him. Why I aint just hand him his drank, lawd. Now my Billy dead, cause of that damn Stagolee. He got locked up that night. Sentenced to twenty years. But he aint care, some girl walked in the courtroom and gave that damn Stagolee a 45. He was shot right in the head by the police. God mustve had a better plan for me cause I sho was gona shot that mammyjammering jive negro right in his mouth. But now I have peace and a life to start over. R. I. P to my poor Billy. ” The second section of literature observed in this course was slave narrative.
Slave narratives were often told in first person. They expressed the hardships experienced by the slaves. In example, the loss of family, horrible living and working conditions and other brutalities are just a few of the adversities they faced that they put into words. In the text, A Brown Girl Dead, the author talks about the burial of a young woman. Her mother had to bury her with the money of her pawned off wedding ring so that she could lay down to rest in the best. A theme for this text would be the lost of a child, and its affect on the parent. This story like, The Souls of Black Folk by W. E. B.
Dubois tells a tale of a parent having to bury their child, instead of the other way around. Below is a prayer from the brown girl’s mother to God. Sojourner Lie prayer to God on January 31, 1861: Dear Lord, I ask of Thee to keep me near the cross. I need your wisdom and blessings now more than ever. You done took my baby. Since the very moment she was born I knew she was the only thing I could claim as mine. Born into slavery the white man dun claimed everything. The land I tilled, the food I planted, the house I cleaned, but not her. See she was mine. Although my husband help make her, she was mine and yours lord.
I take it she be with you now. Lord, I try not to question your mysterious ways, but why life so hard. We in what they call a Civil War. Us slaves freed now, but many of us cant read or write. Thank you lord for making my mistress such a kind woman. She showed me and my baby how to read and write. But I think you knowed that. Lord, how my baby doing? Is she pickin flowers in your great fields of glory, or making you some Eskew Plantation’s famous crumble pie? Whatever she doing, I know she in a better place than here. Lord, I know not to question, but aint life hard enough. You knowed she was all I had.
Parents aint meant to bury they yunggin’, even for slaves. Lord please grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change cause my heart aches for her. I see these young men commin back from the war with no limbs, no sense, and no heart and I see why you took her lord. This aint no life. My life without her in aint no life. What im gona do lord. You sent Kunta off to the war. Who know if he come back and you took my baby. Lord I aint come to you to complain. Please watch over the ones I love lord god. Put a stronger faith for humanity in my spirit god, and above all, please watch over my brown baby girl.
In all these things, Amen. A third type of prose used in this text during a particular time period was the rural life section. In this section, Strange Fruit, a revolutionary poem turned song, spoke of the horrors of racial relations in the south. It was there that lynching’s, which by definition means the act of causing death without a trail was at an all time high. A theme from this section that can be analyzed is racism. Below is an excerpt from a journal by a young black northern man visiting his relatives in Mississippi. A. Langston Taylor, Summer of 1913 Jornal Entry #4: January 9, 1914
I heard of the atrocities southern blacks faced here by whites, but its different to encounter it on your own. As a young city boy, you hear about whites stringing folks on trees, and burning them while alive, but I always thought they told us these stories to keep us from coming back to the backwards south. I lived in an a black project, white folk aint bother us to much. Just came around when we aint pay our rent. I was oblivious to the fact that humans could harbor so much hatred. I aint never like no white man, but I aint ever have to run from one either. Last summer at uncle Jo’s has made me a man.
I no longer walk on clouded dreams. I no longer speak out and revolt at the first sound of some injustice. I sit my black ass down, and keep my thoughts to myself. I write in this journal just so my thoughts wont be said out loud. Im here to tell you that it is real. Racism and hatred so strong you can smell it in the air so real. Them stories I heard, real. On July 13th, last year, il never forget it. I was in the back of Unc’s yard, and I saw a trail of smoke and light moving in the woods. I was bored, and curious, so I followed, thinking I may walk into some lovers in woods. I didn’t.
It was the Klan. I hid behind some brush and watch take this young boy, couldn’t have been no older than 15, off the back of this pick-up truck. He looked beat up. Face all smashed in, blood everywhere, teeth missing. I was to terrified to run for fear of being caught. So I sat there and wondered what this young boy could have done. They put a noose round his neck and tied him up of a big oak. One by one them men cut pieces of his body off. His ears, fingers, penis male part, off. I swear I couldn’t move. I saw them mutilate that young boys body, and watch them pray that he was met in hell by hounds.
They went in that truck and pulled off. I still couldn’t move. What did I witness. I finally got up and ran back to Unc house and told him what happened. He sent me home the next day. Told me to never speak of it again. I often think about what could he have done to deserve that. I came to the conclusion that it was be born black. Nothing he could help at all. I aint the same person nomore. The realities of life has hit me head on. Racism is real. The final time period of literature being analyzed in this outline is the urban life/ migration period. The migration time period from the south occurred from the 1870s onward.
African Americans moved to western, northern, and northeastern areas after the civil war ended in 1865. In the text, there were many excerpts that specialized in what urban life had become. A specific text, “South Central Los Angeles Deathtrip 1982” depicts what modern day urban life has morphed into now blacks have settled into these new areas. A theme that can be picked out of this selection is police brutality. Below is the conversation between the Police Dispatcher and a woman bystander. Monday 5:22 P. M. South Central, Woman bystander just got off of work. ….. phones ringing Dispatcher: 911 Ieasha: Hello 911?
Dispatcher: Yes, what is your emergency? Woman yelling frantically… Ieasha: Mam, the emergency is that the police just shot this boy on Martin Luther King Parkway, please send ambulances. Dispatcher: Ok mam, can I get you to calm down, where is the victim now? Ieasha: Laying on the ground, the cops are talking near a car Dispatcher: Ok, does the victim appear dead mam? Ieasha: Yeeeeeeeeeeeeeessssssss! (oh my god, god send somebody to help him) Dispatcher: Mam, mam, I need you to calm down, do you know how old the victim is? Ieasha: No I cant see his face, he looks young Dispatcher: Does he have a weapon around him mam?
Ieasha: Not from where I can see, ima run up to him (yall I have 911 on the phone) Dispatcher: Mam, I need you to let the police handle their job, please don’t walk near the body! Ieasha: Oh my god! They shot him over a Three Musketeers, a candy bar! Oh my God Oh my God Dispatcher: Mam I need you to sit down calmly somewhere, we do not know what happen ………. phone drops, loud screaming in the background, dispatcher stays on phone can still here Ieash yellin Ieasha: ( dear god whyyyyy, that’s my son, why god, it wasn’t a gun it was just a three musketeer, whyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyy) ………. phone disconnects
In summary, with every time period that African American literature poses a different genre of writing, the hardships of black people are still portrayed with an underlying theme of violence. Violence has been prevalent in African American history since the boat trip from Africa against our will. These stories tell tales of heartaches, misfortune, and gangster personas all as a result of a never ending cycle of violence begetting violence. All that can be hoped for in future African American literature is progressive writings that bring about hope for black youth and racial relations in general.