African-American Literature the Experience of African-Americans Essay

Pages: 2 (888 words)  ·  Style: MLA  ·  Bibliography Sources: 3  ·  File: .docx  ·  Level: College Senior  ·  Topic: Black Studies

African-American Literature

The experience of African-Americans in this country has always been wrought with intense complexity and struggle. Even after the Civil War had destroyed the practice of slavery which kept them legally inferior to the rest of the nation, the experience of being black in American proved most difficult. Some people embraced their heritage, as seen in Zora Neale Hurston's tale "How it Feels to Be a Colored Me," where she sees her differences as a African-American but does not let them define her. However, others were not so lucky, as seen in James Weldon Johnson's tale Autobiography of an Ex-Colored Man, in which the unnamed author rejects his African-American heritage to live a life passing as a white man, thus enjoying a higher status but at the cost of his true identity.

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Hurston's tale begins and ends with the idea that she is different. Yet views these differences in a positive light. It is in her understanding of white Americans that she is first exposed to herself as colored. Although she understands herself as black early on in her hometown, she is fully exposed to what it is to be African-American when she leaves her small town and her individual identity that her town knows her as. In her town, she is Zora, black or not. Outside her town, she is an African-American seemingly with no name. She understands that she is African-American and sees the differences between her condition and that of white Americans she sees riding through her town. This does not phase her, however, and she embraces her heritage, "I AM COLORED but I offer nothing in the way of extenuating circumstances except the fact that I am the only Negro in the United States whose grandfather on the mother's side was not an Indian chief," (Hurston 1). It shows great strength in her character, which develops even further after she is fully exposed to her condition of being black in the South. Rather than allow her condition to define her and place limitations on her life, she harbors no ill will; "BUT I AM NOT tragically colored. There is no great sorrow damned up in my soul, nor lurking behind my eyes," (Hurston 1). Hurston sees herself as African-American, yet sees nothing wrong with it.

TOPIC: Essay on African-American Literature the Experience of African-Americans in Assignment

However, this is not the case for the unnamed narrator in James Weldon Johnson's Autobiography of an Ex-Colored Man. This narrator shows great shame in the fact that he is black. The story begins without his knowledge of his racial heritage, and upon his discovery of it he feels like he is different, somehow negatively affected by the truth of his blood. He… [END OF PREVIEW] . . . READ MORE

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African-American Literature the Experience of African-Americans.  (2009, September 11).  Retrieved July 27, 2021, from https://www.essaytown.com/subjects/paper/african-american-literature-experience/1658989

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"African-American Literature the Experience of African-Americans."  11 September 2009.  Web.  27 July 2021. <https://www.essaytown.com/subjects/paper/african-american-literature-experience/1658989>.

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"African-American Literature the Experience of African-Americans."  Essaytown.com.  September 11, 2009.  Accessed July 27, 2021.
https://www.essaytown.com/subjects/paper/african-american-literature-experience/1658989.