Reverend Ambrose and Grant Wiggins in A Lesson Before Dying

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Suffering through the horrors of racism, black Americans appear to have no chance of progression in society. Generation after generation of being uneducated and treated like animals has left the black community in shambles, and thinking they are not as good as the whites. In the 1940's it was difficult to find a black man who could read and write. The black man's illiteracy caused them to believe that they were less civilized than the whites. In Ernest Gaines' A Lesson Before Dying, we are introduced to Jefferson, an uneducated, average black man who has been wrongly accused of a murder. Convinced that he is an animal, Jefferson is going to be taught by Reverend Ambrose and Grant Wiggins, the plantation schoolteacher, that he is actually a man. Because Reverend Ambrose, and Grant Wiggins have such different teaching beliefs and personalities, they approach teaching Jefferson with conflicting views.

Reverend Ambrose and Grant Wiggins have very different educational backgrounds, which causes them to become foils for each other. Grant Wiggins is a very important man in the black community, because he is the only one with a college education. Many whites have not received this high of an education, and are offended by his intelligence. Reverend Ambrose, a man who has received very little formal education, is ignorant compared to Grant.

Ambrose, the religious leader of the black community, has been educated in the world of faith and religion. When reverend Ambrose says in a verbal confrontation with Grant, "I'm the one that's educated.(Gaines 215 )", we are able to see that he thinks his knowledge of faith is more important than Grant's 'reading, riting, and rithmatic'. Grant and Reverend Ambrose represent the ...

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...being like a child finally resolves Grant and Ambrose's battle, for Jefferson is perceptive to Grant's physical form of teaching, but not to Ambrose's teaching of religion.

Jefferson uses the teachings of Grant, and dies like a dignified man. He shows the white people that blacks are humans, by living the last weeks of his life as a civilized man. Even though this story was fictional, the racism described in it was frighteningly true, and still is evident in the world today. Only in the 1960's would the black population finally band together and say 'we've had enough'. The problem of racism cannot be resolved by one person, it requires an entire population to see it and stop it.

"I don't know if they got a heaven cause samson say they cant be an boo say they aint non fo no niger but reven ambros say they is one for all an bok don't know."(Gaines 233)
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