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With the ruthless enactment of Jim Crow laws after the Civil War, African Americans’ rights and opportunities were immensely limited, causing a social and financial disparity among the different races. One major encumbrance that had to be overcome was the lack of an equal educational environment, which was one of the main contributors to the empowerment of white individuals. Writers like Richard Wright and Lucy Terry created their own voices to express their struggles, even if it was against the law to do so. In Native Son, Richard Wright expresses a story about Bigger Thomas, who exemplifies many of the major hindrances black men faced. Using a violent plot that was unheard of from the perspective of a black individual, Wright is able to convey his beliefs on the subject and further break the racial literary boundary that was established.

Jim Crow Laws established a segregated society by separating blacks in educational facilities, transportation, and living environments. These laws also limited African American rights by using preventative measures to not allow them to vote. For example, “poll taxes required payment for registering to vote” and proof of literacy, which were nearly unachievable requirement for African Americans (Jim Crow Laws). Education was greatly inferior compared to that of a white individual because of the greater funding and importance associated with the different races. Plantation owners would either deem education unimportant for the jobs given to African Americans or that they just did not deserve it. Since most parents were sharecroppers, they would pull their children from school just for the assistance needed on the plantations. The laws were created for the sole purpose of separating people by the color of their skin in an equal manner but ended up being a decoy for lawful discrimination. Disfranchisement “was enacted and enforced with the widespread use of violence” in order to control the behaviors and thoughts of black individuals (Racial Uplift Ideology). They were terrorized to stop any social activism or attempt at gaining any power in their fight against this inequality. Institutions were opened in an attempt to fight for a more balanced state in society for oppressed races like African Americans. When “the Freedmen’s Bureau was established in 1865 to aid formerly enslaved African Americans,” it created educational facilities which African Americans could use without fear or discrimination (The Quest for Education). To fund these programs however, the black community would have to depend on itself, hosting “fundraisers, donating land, and even building the schools with their own hands” to match the contributions from northern charities (The Quest for Education). The facilities started were rather a success, rivaling the educational opportunities that were provided for most white individuals and even aiding other minority groups that weren’t prioritized. These obstacles contributed to the drastic imbalance in social, educational, and financial status that was present and limiting for African Americans’ growth. The efforts of these people were a stepping stone in the fight for equality because of the importance and impact education had on the outcome of one’s life.

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A literary voice from an African American was a concept that was unheard of because of the expectations set on them by society. W. E. B. Du Bois, considered an “african American intellectual,” wondered “how does it feel to be a problem,” raising awareness to these exact struggles and promoting a positive outlook on the circumstance (Racial Uplift Ideology). The questions that were being asked for the first time sparked a new outlook on the treatment of African Americans and made people wonder if it was an acceptable mindset to continue. These thought provoking comments encouraged writes like Richard Wright to not be afraid to speak out on their own struggles and even helped the publishing of earlier works from writers like Lucy Terry. Terry “lived during a period in which it was against the law in many places for blacks to read and write,” but she was still able to find an outlet to express herself like others in her shoes could not (The African-American Literary Experience). With her writing, Lucy Terry elaborated on the struggles of being an African American woman fighting to express herself against the misconduct of society. Terry was able to educate herself and began writing a variety of different works that were the origin of African American literacy. Since African American literacy was looked down upon in a negative light, it took some time for these writers to get recognized and acknowledged for their extraordinary contributions to the history of written expression. With this earlier fight against lopsided treatment of a race, contemporary writers like Angela Jackson were able to complete works in “multiple genres on themes of love, family, black culture, racial inequities, and racial violence” to convey their own voices unhindered by others judgement. Their fight was not only based on the right to express themselves with words, but to be able to explain their struggles and discover a way to minimize them (Jackson). Black writers began to “use their creative powers to respond to the brewing political and racial tensions around them in poetry, novels, and autobiographies,” bringing a daily notion to the subject matter that wasn’t present in the past (Jackson). These writers had two purposes: to explain their outrage and convince white individuals that they deserved equal rights that were afforded to them. Previous works promoted newer writes to continue the fight against these unfair restrictions because even to this day true equality is sought in many different aspects of life.

Richard Wright’s Native Son, expresses a story about a poor, uneducated, twenty-year-old black man named Bigger Thomas. Throughout the story, Wright elaborates on the gruesome life experiences faced by Thomas to go along with his malign actions that were unexpected and unheard of. There was a significant lack of writing from the perspective of a black man and an even greater lack of literary violence towards white individuals from these black men. Thomas killed a white woman and raped and killed a black women, all which was never written about due to the severity of those acts from such a low classed individual. Wright captures the significant inequality in society with the meticulous care and determination established in the community of the novel to find the murderer of the white women while completely ignoring the outcome of the black women. This attention further exemplified the opportunities and assistance that was not granted to certain people in a society because of their race and skin color. Native Son broke these boundaries and forced people to understand the destructive effects that this social control had on the lives of black people. Wright establishes that Bigger Thomas wasn’t born a violent man, but was rather a product of the violence associated around him. He holds that “these were the rhythms of his life: indifference and violence” giving the reader a greater sense of sympathy towards Thomas, due to his tragic life circumstances (Wright 31). He lived in a very poor living environment and was conditioned with countless images of wealthy white men and ridiculously poor black men to negatively influence his outlook on society as a whole. Wright explains that this putting down of a race led to all of the violence that occured because of the anger developed in African Americans as a result. Bigger Thomas didn’t feel any remorse for his actions because he gained a sense of individuality rebelling against a group of people that wanted to abolish his culture. These ramifications led to the underlying problem in society, that black oppression led to anger and violence within the group towards their oppressors, resulting in further and more aggressive punishment of African Americans. Thomas’ character symbolized the oppressive affect that white’s discrimination created. Wright does elaborate on a solution to this particular problem by establishing Max’s character, a white individual that sympathizes with Bigger and his situation, showing that it is possible for the two different groups to exist peacefully if a common understanding is present between them. If both groups aided each other and promoted all around positive growth, society could have grown more seemingly and equally. Writers began more often speaking out and establishing their own voices to fight for rights they believed they deserved.

From the very beginning of slavery, African Americans had minimal opportunities to grow in a similar manner as their white contemporaries. With further magnification of this oppression as a result of demeaning laws, African Americans were forced to mend for themselves and discover their own creative ways to feel free of this oppression. They went to extreme measures in learning in secrecy and even daring to write against a group that had such control over them. With the aid of literacy and literary works, writers elaborated on their individual encumbrances, hoping for change, and how it affected their lives negative, trying to elope sympathy from white individuals. With continuous reference to this inequality, it became very difficult to ignore for a country that symbolizes and promoted freedom. African Americans’ fight for the one right that whites wanted to limit from them, was eventually the answer to minimizing a large amount of this negative tyranny. Through their writing, blacks persuaded people away from this way of thinking and were able to drastically improve in their clash.

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