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Breaking The Barriers Of Ignorance (Black Boy)

1334 words - 5 pages

Following a century of steam, the century of electricity begins. Ragtime jazz develops, Albert Einstein publishes his theory of relativity, women get the right to vote, Henry Ford releases his first car, and Walt Disney's Mickey Mouse first talks on screen in the film Steamboat Willie. Although the early 1900s is called the "age of wonderful nonsense," there is a darker side which few people want to remember. World War I, the sinking of the Titanic, the stock market crash, and the Great Depression were all events which helped shape the decade. Living through this mass hysteria of rises and downfalls is Richard Wright, a young boy who refuses to accept how white people treat black people in the Jim Crow South. Throughout his childhood he has endured negligence, abuse, and violence yet survives to become a dignified and respected writer in the north through his refusal to accept what white people expect him to be, his defiance of his own family's and community's expectations, and his willingness to do whatever it takes to survive the hunger and brutality of his youth.One of the main reasons Richard survived the harsh South was because of his refusal to accept the common perception of black people for himself. He didn't want to be seen as a traditional "nigger," or a black slave. Richard was self-motivated and expressed much interest in reading and writing, and taught himself how to accomplish these tasks. "I want to read. I can't get books from the library, I wonder if you'd let me use your card?" (257) Being a black boy in the South, Richard lacked certain privileges that white people had, such as the ability to check out books from the library. If society isn't going to help Richard accomplish his goals, he's going to beat the system and be who he thinks he can be - no matter the cost. Richard's seen what the "traditional" black man turns into if he lets society shape him. Shorty, an acquaintance of Richard's, tells Richard, "I'll never leave this goddamn South ... I'm always saying I am, but I won't...I'm lazy. I like to sleep too goddamn much. I'll die here, or maybe they'll kill me." (257) Richard doesn't want to put up with white people's actions towards blacks, he's seen changes in people's characters, and doesn't want to be like them. Richard is determined to make it out of the South because he doesn't want to spend the rest of his life aspiring to nothing more than a common nigger. Richard's lifestyle has always been one of poverty. He's never had the luxury of always having food to eat, nice clothes to wear, or extra money. Richard's determination to have his own life in the North forces him to get a job to make a living, purchase food and clothes, and have a little extra money to spend. "The next day at school I inquired among the students about jobs and was given the name of a white family who wanted a boy to do chores." (145) Since Richard was black, he was given the most basic level jobs, the jobs which paid the least and had the...

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