Life of a Mullato

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Life of a Mullato

In Society, there has been one common way through which an individual can differentiate himself and that is race/color. Consequently, once a person's color is determined, it seems a class structure is established, a structure that not only describes the individual's social, political, but also their economic standards. Throughout most of nineteenth century literature that we have read it's apparent, the class structure consisted of whites and blacks. Much of the literary works of the time stressed that to be black meant being despised and discriminated against by the white population. Moreover, the literature such as Our Nig portrayed whites as domineering and superior as they essentially controlled many black people's lives (slaves). However, authors like Harriet Wilson, Wallace Thurman brought into picture the emergence of another race that did not belong to either black of white race, which were the mulattoes. These authors in their work discuss the struggles and the intra racism faced by the mulattoes that are the offspring's of black and white parents. Moreover, even categorizing these people as mulatto has a hidden racist assumption to begin with. This is because the very word "mulatto" carries this animal connotation; it comes from the Spanish for "little mule." As a result, referring to these individuals in animal terms is usually not socially acceptable. If mulattos are animals, then by implication, so are blacks. Perceiving nonwhites as less than human is the result of the close connection with the Christian beliefs and thus the negative view of the society towards blacks and mulattoes. This impartial distinction of mulattoes foretells the various problems and prejudices that were exper...

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...ings of Chesnutt and Wilson were helpful in bringing out the reality behind the inequality towards these individuals. Both writers boldly wrote about issues that were highly controversial in their day and did so successfully especially Wilson who in the autobiographical novel stressed the importance of one's skin color as the measure of their power in the society. Overall, these authors presented the relentless challenges mulattoes had to undergo while at the same time describing the racial truths of the past as well as today.


Chesnutt, Charles W. The House Behind the Cedars. Boston: Houghton Mifflin & Company, 1900.

Wilson, Harriet E. Ed. Henry Louis Gates, Jr., Our Nig; or Sketches from the Life of a

Free Black. New York: Vintage Books, 1983.

Thurman, Wallace. The Blacker the Berry. New York: Arno Press, 1969. (c.1929)
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