I was initially confused when Dr. May told our class that the last work we would be reading, Kindred, was a work of fiction. My confusion was amplified when I found out that it was classified as science fiction. However, after finishing the novel and discussing it in detail, I understand exactly why Dr. May chose this to be our final reading. To classify this novel as science fiction is a bit misleading, I think. The story does have science fiction elements, mainly time travel, but I think the bulk of the story focuses more on the relationships between the characters. Another stark difference I found from most science fiction novels is the fact in the novel, the main character travels back in time, as opposed to venturing into the future. I believe this was the first time I had encountered a novel taking this direction, as most science fiction novels seem to obsess over the future. Returning to how the novel relates to our course, I think it’s important to look at how the course progressed. We began the semester with Jupiter Hammon and Phillis Wheatley. Of course, both Hammon and Wheatley were slaves, yet they emerged as two of the first African American writers. With Wheatley’s writing especially, one can almost see an acceptance of slavery, instead putting more focus on God. The ideas of slavery and the roles of African Americans in society were challenged as time went on, and we were given an account to the hardships of life with writers such as Venture Smith. As the semester progressed week after week, we saw new, prominent figures in African American literature, all of whom made significant contributions to what African American literature is today. To me, it seemed that the role of the African American writer changed drastically through the years. Essentially, though, all writing was centered around, or at least was connected to, slavery. With Kindred, we see how far African American literature has come. For the first time in the semester, we see a work of fiction, one that combines several genres, and seems to be a work that the author wrote from her own desires and passions. What I saw was Octavia Butler having the freedom to write about whatever she pleased to, something that sadly would not have been as easily done just decades before. The fact that this was the last novel we read really put the entire history of African American literature in perspective, I thought.
Archive for April, 2013
The video we viewed in Thursday’s class was a great accompaniment to DuBois’ “The Souls of Black Folk”, as it brought to light many of the problems that Dubois himself mentioned in his work. The video showed the Jim Crow period, a time where African Americans were faced with many cruelties. To understand its relation to the DuBois, it is important to fully understand certain portions of the video. The video began with showing a town in North Carolina, where there was a strong black and white middle class. Using the labor skills that they had learned during their time in slavery, the African American community was able to use these skills to form business and become an affluent part of society. In time, however, economic tensions grew, as the white population felt threatened by the economic growth and power of the African Americans. With great intimidation and violence, the African American power was stifled by the Democrats. The next town that was described was that of New Orleans, which was described as a sort of haven. This was the time where Booker T. Washington was rising to prominence, and becoming a strong and popular figure in the African American society. Due to the political injustices of the past, Booker T. Washington suggested that African Americans should essentially leave civil rights alone, and focus on work and business. During this period, high schools implemented skills and trade, which African Americans hoped would offer them a place in society. Booker T. Washington argued that if they simply worked hard to provide necessities that the white population needed, and if they did not meddle in politics, the white population would not have a problem and there would be no confrontation. Atlanta was a large practitioner of Booker T. Washington’s ideas, and it was considered an experiment of sorts. Sadly, Washington’s claim did not work, and the African American’s were again subjected to political dominance and injustice. This, however, is where DuBois came in. In his text, DuBois voices his disagreement with Washington’s model for African American living, arguing that African American’s should not be left out of politics and further education. DuBois argues that Washington’s ideals clearly did not work, and that even though the African American population in Atlanta followed Washington’s ideals, they were quickly suppressed. DuBois argues that an education that is based on labor and skills is not sufficient to bring equality, and that African American society would not become strong with an education that included politics. DuBois believed that to be successful, African Americans needed significant political power. The main reasoning behind this form of education is that it would produce leaders and educators in the African American society, and these people would then guide others to similar routes, thus strengthening the culture and their place in society.