African American Literature Analysis

1296 Words6 Pages
With the whole United States watching Martin Luther King Jr. told the world about his dreams. Just as he would not rest until his voice was heard, African American literature would not stop either. Together they opened the American’s eye to the lives being lived by many African Americans for the first time. Many of these stories, poems, essays, and plays held common themes of having dreams, dreams with which could not be achieved due to the overbearing power of the White man, dreams just like that of Martin Luther King Jr. The theme of racism inhibiting the chance for African Americans to better themselves is common in American literature up until the late 1900’s. The poem “Harlem” by Langston Hughes, the essay “Black Men and Public Space” by Brent Staples, the play “A Raisin in the Sun” by Lorraine Hansberry, and the short story “Desiree’s Baby” by Kate Chopin all adhere to this theme. This theme is made clear in these works through the use of setting, characterization, and language. Setting plays a major part in nearly every work of literature dealing with civil rights. Most authors rely on the fact that everyone knows what happened in America during and before the twentieth century. By taking their story and placing it into this time frame and particularly placing it in the south it is likely their theme pertains to race or racial relations. The first evident case of this theme appears in the poem “Harlem” by Langston Hughes. The only insight that is given and necessary to determine the setting of the poem is the title “Harlem”. Harlem is a large neighborhood in the borough of Manhattan named originally after the Dutch. Since the early 1900’s it has been referred to as an area of large African American population, surrounded... ... middle of paper ... ...en, you ain’t through learning—because that ain’t the time at all. It’s when he’s at his lowest and can’t believe in hisself ‘cause the world done whipped him so! When you starts measuring somebody, measure him right, child, measure him right. Make sure you done taken into account what hills and valleys he come through before he got to wherever he is” (Hansberry 1178). Although Mama’s English is poor, the moral of what she said was still pushed across and that is all that matters. The diction further enforces the setting of the play. African Americans had just as much right for their shot at the American dream as the whites did, and through the use of writing African Americans were able to get the idea across. Writing allowed them to get their viewpoints across and served as a type of inspiration to its readers to actually go out and let their voices be heard.
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