A Comparison of Violence in Living Jim Crow, Incident, and Blood burning moon

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Violence in Living Jim Crow, Incident, and Blood burning moon

Violence seems to be quite a common topic in black American literature of the first decades of the 20th century. One major reason for this is probably that it was important for black authors not to be quiet about the injustices being done to them. The violence described in the texts is not only of the physical kind, but also psychological: the constant harassment and terrorising. The ever-present violence had such an effect on the black that they just could not fight back to stop the injustices.

Richard Wright describes in his autobiography 'The Ethics of Living Jim Crow: An Autobiographical Sketch' the atmosphere at his first job, where his fellow workers would not teach him anything, just because he was black: "This is a white man's work around here, and you better watch yourself" (291). From that moment on, he never really felt at ease going to work. This kind of feeling of unease is also found in Countee Cullen's 'Incident.' It shows clearly how children are not really aware of the differences adults believe to exist between different races until being told that there is a difference. The poem seems to be a product of personal experiences as a child, when another child pokes out his tongue and calls the speaker of the poem "nigger" during a stay in Baltimore, and it pictures the human tendency to look no further than the colour of the skin. This is probably an event that stayed in the child's mind all his life, hence the final lines of the poem: "I saw the whole of Baltimore / From May until December; / Of all the things that happened there / That's all that I remember" (384).

In his autobiography Wright also describes the childhood fi...

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... habits free rein. Reading Black Voices really made me think of how I act and think when it comes to racial issues and even though I know that all human beings are equal, this kind of reminder is necessary - for all of us.


From the anthology Black voices:

Jean Toomer: 'Blood burning moon'

Richard Wright: 'The Ethics of Living Jim Crow: An Autobiographical Sketch'

Dudley Randall: 'The Idiot'

Countee Cullen: 'Incident'

Internet resources:

Countee Cullen. The Academy of American Poets. March 2001 <>

Jean Toomer. Heath Online Instructor's Guide. March 2001 <>

1 "Gutta cavat lapidem non vi sed saepe cadendo": Latin for "The drop carves the stone, not by force but by constant dripping."
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