One of the most influential and enlightening scholars in contemporary academics who focuses primarily on African-American issues, both from the past and the present, is undoubtedly Henry Louis Gates, Jr. Born in 1950 and raised in the small, middle-class, 'colored' community of Piedmont, West Virginia, Gates's acclaimed 1995 autobiography, Colored People, brings readers to a place and time in America when both the racial boundaries and the definition of progress were changing weekly. Colored People, however, is not about race specifically. Rather, it is a story which chronicles how his family existed during a unique time in American history -- a time when attempts at desegregation were just beginning. Starting with a preface that takes the form of a letter written to his daughters, Maggie and Liza, and continuing on throughout the rest of the book, Gates -- in spite of the fact that he graduated summa cum laude from Yale and received a Ph.D. from Cambridge University -- writes his autobiography in a conversational tone that is so accessible that it comes off as though he is telling his story to the reader in person and for the first time, thus making us both understand and empathize with it more. Through his story, he provides details about all the characters that influenced his life -- from Uncle Earke the Turkey, who loved to rant about the female sex, to his grandmother Big Mom, who founded the local Episcopal church, onto to his first true love, the little bookworm Linda, and finally Reverend Monroe, who inspired all who came into contact with him -- but he pays special attention to describing his mother. Based off the writing in Colored People, Gates's mother was one of the bravest, accomplished, and most determined ...
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...ored People shows, minorities, if they have access to the right sources, can and do succeed in America. It is only those -- though there are many as Colored People also proves -- who are truly disadvantaged that need governmental assistance in attaining essential resources -- income, family stability, housing, schooling, and positive peer group support -- so that they can become more mobile. In the end, Gates, through his personal family and life experiences, emphasizes to his that color is indeed only on the surface. We are all human being, and the reason that inequality exists in America has nothing to do with color, but rather to do with access to resources.
Gates, Henry Louis, Jr. Colored People: a memoir. New York, NY: Alfred A. Knopf, 1995.
Gross, George R. Selected Essays on Minority Groups. Northern Michigan University, 2011-2013.
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