African Americans have come a long way. They experienced years of pain and struggle against the oppressive system of slavery and racial discrimination. This era was documented in works of literature by outstanding writers, who were able to capture the experiences of African Americans through extreme poverty, racial segregation and discrimination (Napolitano, Andrew P, 2009).
Ralph Ellisons story, Battle Royal is a narrative of the endless struggle for equality and individuality experienced by African Americans (Ellison, Ralph, and William Gropper, 1984).The narrator, who is a young man from the African American community, is given a chance to present a speech to a group of elite whites. His naive anticipation of being applauded in a normal situation is crashed when he faces cruelty and mockery from his audience. The narrator depicts a sense of inferiority complex, his need for recognition and validation from the white men when he is disappointed when they mock him. He felt that only they could judge his ability. The battle symbolized the fight experienced by black men irrespective of your position all to fit in the system dominated by white supremacy. It also shows that African American men were ready to fight, harm and kill each other just to get financial gain or recognition from the white folks.
During the battles, they were hurled at insults and were dehumanized. They were also blindfolded by white cloths when fighting with their opponents. Normally, white color is a representation of peace, innocence and cleanliness. However the narrator choice of words to describe his experience were terror, darkness and tight depicts his world ( Ellison, Ralph, and William Gropper, 1984) . He is living in terror, always fearing for his life and faces restrictions as a result of racial discrimination. By the end of the story, the narrator gets another chance to give his speech. Unfortunately, he is laughed at and interrupted severally. This shows the continued struggle and fight against racial discrimination even after end of slavery.
Sympathy is a poem by Paul Laurence which uses the imagery of a caged bird to pass his thoughts on life and freedom. The title of the poem and the use of the line I know what the caged bird feels, alas! depicts the shared desire by both the bird and speaker for freedom (Dunbar, Paul L, 1980). Moreover, the speaker communicates that the caged bird feels oppressed and controlled while locked up in the cage. The bird sings not as a result of happiness but misery. The cage signifies racism and the powerlessness faced by the bird and speaker.
Paul Laurence suggests that human beings are expressive by nature but this right is infringed by acts of discrimination. Additionally, line ten and eleven clearly suggest that the bird has to stay in the cage when all he wants is to be perched on a swinging branch. This represents oppression African Americans faced and the fact that it was a struggle for them to break off from the shackles of slavery and racism. However, line twelve to fourteen show that despite the situation, the bird still has hope of breaking off from oppression. This poem is more of a prayer by the bird in the quest for freedom and oppression. These are the same exact sentiments shared by the speaker who is also yearning for freedom (Dunbar, Paul L, 1980).
Dunbar, Paul L. The Complete Poems of Paul Laurence Dunbar. New York: Dodd, Mead, 1980. Print.
Ellison, Ralph, and William Gropper. "Battle Royal: A Story." Magazine of the Year. 2.1 (1948). Print.
Blauner, Bob. Still the Big News: Racial Oppression in America. Philadelphia: Temple University Press, 2001. Print.
Napolitano, Andrew P. Dred Scott's Revenge: A Legal History of Race and Freedom in America. Nashville, Tenn: Thomas Nelson, 2009. Print.
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