The Colored Museum, By William Wolfe Essay

The Colored Museum, By William Wolfe Essay

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In The Colored Museum, Wolfe suggests that people should claim and honor their cultural baggage. However, de does it while disclosing how difficult that may be for an African American through a series of characters. I believe Wolfe exhibits this with characters struggling with stereotypes, susceptibility, and acceptance. Characters such as Janine, LaWanda, and Aunt Ethel show the struggle of African Americans dealing with stereotypes and how those false identities influence whether they claim or trash their baggage. Scenes such as Soldier with a Secret, The Last Mama-on-the-Couch Play, and Symbiosis have the theme of susceptibility. These characters validate the threat of claiming your baggage. Finally, acceptance is evident in scenes such as The Gospel According to Miss Roj, Lala’s Opening, and Permutations in which characters embrace their culture.
Stereotypes are harmful because they affect those who are struggling with their identity. I think Wolfe included typical African American stereotypes such as the basketball player described by Miss Pat, the African American woman with “attitude” and “a healthy head of kinks” described by Janine, and Aunt Ethel who portrays the “down-home black woman.” In The Hairpiece, the woman is being persuaded to either be the sociality acceptable stereotype that wears the hair “flowy” hair resembling Caucasian hair or the “angry black woman” who wears her natural “kink” hair. What I learned from these characters is that if you do not claim your baggage, your identity may be negatively determined by the stereotypes created by society.
Aunt Ethel further affirms this in the scene Cookin’ with Aunt Ethel. As I read Aunt Ethel’s recipe, “now ya add a heap of survival/ and humility, just a touch/ ...


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...sting that black people should claim their baggage. In The Party, Topsy said, “I tell you all the children was just all up in there, dancing to the rhythm of one beat. Dancing to the rhythm of their own definition.” This makes me think of being able to move on and feeling free to “dance” once assuring your past. The Party is an important scene because Topsy contradicts everything Miss Pat said in the opening scene. My judgment comes from the use of drums that Wolfe produced to show unity and culture. Miss Pat strongly discourages the audience to join the drumming but Topsy ends with a party. Ultimately, I think this scene recounts that rebelling and hearing the drums is a way of ignoring what society may consider as baggage, therefor, allowing yourself to be “set free.” Any baggage you don’t claim, gives society the power to compensate it with their perfect recipe.

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