Baldwin's Views on Struggles of Blacks in America

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Same Story, Different Continents

During the late 1950?s and early 1960?s, many African nations were struggling for their independence from Europe. In ?Down at the Cross,? James Baldwin relates this struggle to that of blacks in the United States during the same time period, and there are far more similarities than Baldwin mentions. Although this comparison offers hope, demonstrating the power of blacks over white oppressors, the ongoing European presence in Africa is a painful reminder that independence and freedom are not complete.

Since the 1880?s, when European nations colonized Africa, Europe had almost complete control over the continent, but this changed during the 1950?s and 60?s. By 1958, ten African countries had gained their independence, and sixteen more joined the list in 1960 alone. Although these nations? gain of independence demonstrates the ability of blacks to overpower their white oppressors, Baldwin argues ?The word ?independence? in Africa and the word ?integration? here are almost equally meaningless; that is, Europe has not yet left Africa, and black men here are not yet free? (336). While black people had been legally free in the United States since 1863, two decades before the European colonization of Africa, they were still not truly free, almost a century later.

The absence of true freedom is apparent in Baldwin?s other essays, in which he writes about the rampant prejudice and discrimination of the 1950?s and 60?s. Blacks during this time were limited as to where they could live, go to school, use the bathroom, eat, and drink. ?Such were the cases of a Nigerian second secretary who was rebuffed last week when he tried to order breakfast in Charlottesville, VA, and a Ghanaian second secret...

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