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Analyzing History Lessons By Historical Criticism

749 words - 3 pages

During the nineteen sixties, African Americans experienced an immense amount of changes such as the Voting Rights Act of 1965 and the Civil Rights Act of 1968. Prior to these changes, African Americans faced racial segregation. Segregation was prevalent in housing, transportation, education, medical care and even in the United States Armed Forces. In the poem, History Lesson, the speaker recalls a memory on a beach in Mississippi regarding segregation with her grandmother in the 1930’s. A comparison of the speaker and her grandmother shows both the belief in segregation in the 1930’s compared to the desegregation in the 1970’s. By utilizing historical criticism, History Lesson by Natasha ...view middle of the document...

Trethewey was born into a mixed race marriage. The daughter to a Canadian immigrant professor and social worker, Trethewey’s parents divorced when she was six years old (2011 Poetry Foundation). As a child, she divided her time between her parents in New Orleans, LA and Atlanta, GA. After graduating college, Trethewey went on to publish Domestic Work, which explored the working class African Americans of the South ( 2011 Poetry Foundation).
In the poem, History Lesson, the speaker utilizes historical criticism to recall segregation that occurred with her grandmother on a beach in Mississippi in the 1930’s. The poem begins with the speaker recalling a memory of a photo taken when she was four years old. She describes her hands on her hips in a flowered bikini. She has her toes buried in the sand of a long strip of beach on the Mississippi coast. She recalls minnows swimming throughout her feet. She is alone in the photo, except for her grandmother on the opposite side of the camera telling her how to pose. The poem changes to 1930, and she describes her grandmother, who stood on a narrow piece of the beach that had been marked “colored” (Trethewey). Like the speaker, her grandmother has her hands on the flower covered cotton mill-sack dress.

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