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Oppression and segregation marked the lifestyle of the Black American people, who lived in the United States of America, as they were under the White oppression. The endurance of the historic devastation, fully characterized by slavery and imperialism, is what the Black people experienced, as the Whites treated them mercilessly (Wagner 242). There is no doubt that because of the long history, most of the Black American people cannot still overcome the trauma that they have ensued from the White oppression during the depression era. It is evident that the agonizing ordeal of slavery and racial discrimination by the Whites turned the Black people to stand out as inferiors and outsiders. The Whites used look down upon the Black people.
With the life of the Blacks, especially the Black Americans, people living in the United States underwent traumatizing experience during the White oppression; there still exists massive consequences today, that bind the Black people together (Wagner 242). This is more evident in the poem, entitled “On the Road,” that prompts a renowned interaction between African American poet Langston Hughes and other Black writers, who express their devastation of the White oppression. Just like other Black writers from different parts of the world, who stood out for their fellow Black people, Langston Hughes depicted the social inequalities and racial discrimination that were evidently present in the lives of the Black Americans during the depression era. Hughes uses an outstanding character, Sargeant, who signifies the lives of the many Black people, who lived with no basic life necessities, like shelter and food, as they were enslaved and oppressed by the White people.
Reading the poem, one understands more about the suffering and tribulations that the Black people underwent. The reader realizes how unfair the life was to many people, and how they had lost hope, and lived a life of survival. There is no doubt that the African American poet, Langston Hughes, looks for ways to portray the Black people’s life, he attempts to reconstruct a history that is marked by the devastation, as a result, of slavery and imperialism (Shuman 743). This is more evident in his work as a Black writer; he tries to describe the history of colonial supremacy by the oppressors, he shows support for the sense of identity among the Blacks.
On the other hand, Hughes’s main objectives in his poem are to pull apart all the colonial narratives about the African Americans, and how the Black people were initially oppressed, through undertaking a review of the history, and amending the story of racism and slavery, as it occurred in the United States of America (Wagner 242). This is achievable, as Hughes features the Blacks’ viewpoint of colonization, and the oppression they underwent while being under the rule of the Whites. From a reader’s perspective, one will not fail to understand that Hughes focuses on bringing to the limelight both the psychological and social side of what ensued during the era of depression, when the Whites oppressed the Black people. The impact of this impression on the way of life of the Blacks can be seen even today.
Indeed, there exists a vivid history of the White oppression on the Black people in the United States of America. Hughes describes how the White people had continuously suppressed the innocent Black population by subjecting them to harsh conditions and relations, as they looked down upon them for a period of over two hundred years. It is even more significant, that the depression era left an immense impact on the life of the Black people, who were the victims of slavery and racism (Shuman 743). This significantly marked the Black’s lifestyle today, it has influenced depict relationship between the Black and the White people, as the scars of oppression and problems they were subdued to during the depression era had a lot of trauma and pain that are still evident today in the United States of America.
When a reader, goes through Langston Hughes’s poem, they cannot fail to identify how skillfully he used nature through using snow and night symbols to demonstrate a discrete relationship among the Blacks and the Whites. Hughes give a vivid picture of the White oppression, he described the continuous discrimination, how the different races related to each other in schools, churches, and how they conflicted with each other (Shuman 744). This is evident through the lack of equal human rights for the Black people and the White people. Without a doubt, there were instances where individuals, like the social philanthropists, who created false perceptions, as they purported to be supporting the Black schools, while they simply wished to take advantage of the Black people, just like the other White oppressors. This is because it was contrary to their firm belief that there was a need to segregate the two races into different classes, as they could not be compatible together.
On the other hand, Hughes gave a clear impression of the history of the White oppression of the Black people in the United States of America. He uses sarcasm and high level of pretense to describe how the Whites continuously directly or indirectly oppressed the Black people. Hughes explains how the White union leaders, who ministered in the churches, and preached brother/sisterhood among the people (the Whites and the Blacks), practiced different contrary to what they preached (Laurie 94). This is because they were the first ones to practice racial discrimination, while they did not build the brother/sisterhood they preached in their real life, as they lived in the midst of the two cultures. This is further portrayed by their continued practice of segregation, based on the different races; they identified themselves with the white race, and were discriminating the inferior black race.
In addition, Hughes even goes further to illustrate how the Whites used the Blacks to continue oppressing the other Black Americans in the United States; they found it conducive to evaluate their objective of permanent slavery and racial discrimination. This is because the Black religious and political leaders, who were supposed to assist their fellow Blacks in their way out of slavery and racism, have continuously sided with the Whites (Shuman 743). As a result, they strived to conciliate the Whites, in order to gain favors from them at the expense of sacrificing the lives of the poor Black people, living a life full of depression and suffering.
It is, therefore, evident that just like other Black writers, who were tired of being mistreated, and seeing their fellow Blacks being subdued to slavery and humiliation. Hughes was one of the reformers, who stood out as the voice of the Black people, suffering in pain of misery (Shuman 744). As a result, Hughes played a significant role in educating Whites to have dignity of the Black people by using a character, like Sargeant, who would awaken the desire in the Black people’s mind to move on, and fight for their human rights, as they would have access to radical ideas.
Hughes plainly depicts the decline of the oppression era of the Blacks’ traditional image, as the end of the oppression. He stated that the Blacks had been victims of racism and slavery of the White oppression for a too long period, and this was to be finished (Wagner 242). The Black people were enlightened to fight against the Whites, and be winners and gain freedom from the bondages of suffering and discrimination, which they had undergone long ago. Thus, Hughes not only condemns the evils that the Whites implicated on the generations of the Black American people, who lived in the United States of America; but then again he repudiates the autocrat's histories of subservience that clearly intended to throw out the Black people out of the human race in the past, through the inhuman treatment.
This is more evident, as in the United States, the Whites treated the African people, and the native Black Americans as something less than human beings, and were often mistreated, as they were not given the dignity they deserved, like the other individuals were. Therefore, the Blacks were usually seen as barbarians, who lived among the Whites, and they would never have an opportunity to reach the so-called high level of civilization, that their authoritarians, the Whites had attained. This is comparative in Hughes's narrations featured by the main character, Sargeant; it portrays how people from the downtrodden African-Americans society continuously faced negligence, as they were overlooked by a prejudiced society, which majorly consisted of the Whites (Shuman 743).
The Blacks were like ill people, who suffered from pain and torture from the White oppressors; it became unbearable with time, and they, therefore, needed to take action in order to revive themselves and their generation. As a result, there came up a point during the oppression era, whereby the Black American became fed up with the problems, they continuously faced, as the Whites unceasingly took advantage of them, and subjected them to a life that could not relate to that of a human being (Shuman 743). Therefore, they joined forces together to express their grievances, as they were tired of a survival life with no future. The whole generation of the Black people could fall victims of a blind hope. They needed to arise in their defense, in order to gain respect, and get a chance to live their lives as human beings. On the other hand, they were also fed up with fighting the Whites through resilience, as they wanted to revive themselves from the cloud of ashes.
As a result, the continuous struggle of the Black people was set to see the end of the White oppression era; it, eventually, gave rise to an evolution of the new Black man and the new White man, as both races reshaped their identities to accommodate each other (Wagner 242). This is majorly because the Black revolution against the White racial discrimination, slavery, and oppression led to the development of a special consciousness in the United States of America. Thus, as a result, of the development of historic consciousness, there has been changes in the Black Americans’ life, as it has essentially impacted on their lives, and reformed the personality of the White Americans, therefore, facilitating a communal historical awareness that is evident even today.
Hughes uses Sargeant as the main character in his poem. He is always on the road, and he brings out the high level of oppression from the Whites; this created a social impact on his character. This narration opens up a clear understanding of how the Black people in the United States of America continuously suffered from oppression and slavery, as they subdued to the Whites, who looked down upon them (Shuman 744). Being one of the Black writers, who was tired of seeing their fellow Black brothers and sisters suffering, Hughes’s work features how the Blacks were often marginalized, cheated, abused, or ignored, as they belonged to a different race or class.
In his narration, Hughes explains how Sargeant, a tall eccentric Black man, lived in dejection and poverty, his life was full of misery and despair. He describes Sargeant, as an African American itinerant, who lived in an abject poverty, as he faced oppression, thus, spent time seeking food and shelter for himself on the deserted streets of Nevada, in the late 1934, in the core of a hazardous snowstorm (Shuman 744). Hughes further describes how the life of Sargeant became worse, because he struggled all his life, as he resided in a community full of racism, as the White people discriminated against the Black folks.
As a Black person, Sargeant faced hardships and difficult conditions, since the Black people were treated by the Whites as lesser human beings, as they were considered not to have any human rights. Hughes manages to use Sargeant as a clear representative of the life of despair and abject poverty that the Black people live in, despite the hard work they input into the slavery work they perform for the White people (Shuman 743). Without a doubt, Hughes gives a clear depiction of the oppression that the Black people faced, as they intended to please their White oppressors.
The life of Sargeant, as portrayed in the poem, gives a vivid look of the suffering, agony, and pain that the oppressed Black people underwent through, because of the White oppression. This is because Sargeant continuously struggled in his life, thus, he was always tired, besides he was hungry for lack of food to eat, as he felt tired and sleepy at the end of a long day. Unlike the other White people, who were lucky to sleep under a comfortable shelter, Sargeant had to sleep on the streets, out in the cold all through the night (Shuman 743). Sargeant sought shelter on a lonesome street, as he slept on the cold floors of the street, as it remained the only shelter he could afford after a long and tiresome day, as he struggled to survive amidst the Whites oppression. Hughes’s description of Sargeant’s life gives a descriptive example of the kind of life where the Black people are believed to be from the downtrodden African culture that is neglected and overlooked by a discriminatory society.
Hughes further describes how out of desperation and despair, Sargeant managed to sleep on a cold street floor, and due to hunger, tiredness and sleep, he slept soundly that he could not even see the heavy snow in the winter night. In addition, Hughes emphasizes the fact that Sargeant fails to see the falling white and flaking snow, even though he slept below the main street bright light. Hughes, therefore, explains how desperate Sargeant’s life is, as he continuously was on his run to survive, as he could not even afford the basic essentials of life, like food and shelter (Shuman 743). This is evident by the fact that Sargeant had been hungry for a long period of time, as he could not afford to get food; besides, he had slept on the main street, even though it was cold, and he lacked any shelter. At this point, the White oppression becomes vivid, as the White people gained a lot of fruits from the Blacks’ hard labor, while leaving them to subdue to the hardship conditions.
As a result, Sargeant fell into a state of despair and demise; he had lost all the hope he had of a better future, as all he knew was a life subjected to poverty. This is because he had nothing to neither enjoy nor be proud of, he lacked even the necessities of life that a human being was required to own (Shuman 743). On the other hand, Sargeant felt that there was no more need to fight with the Whites, since they were powerful, and could not give up, or even sympathized and treated the Black man as a human being. Therefore, Sergeant’s life was marked with a lot of remorsefulness, as he was tired, just like the other Blacks, of a life of being oppressed and tormented daily, due to slavery and racial discrimination against them.
There is no doubt that, as a reader, one does not cease to see how Sargeant was left doubting, whether the goodness of life still exists anywhere in the world, as for him, life had turned out to be a misery that could not be easily unraveled. This is more evident by his loss of hope and struggle, while fighting the oppression by the Whites, as he saw it as an endless fate bestowed upon suffering Black people. Hughes successfully illustrated the high level of despair; Sargeant slept and could not even realize the beauty of the snow, and the flakes falling down the well-lit main street under the bright light, he quickly fell asleep, due to suffering and despair he experienced. Hughes, therefore, explains that even with the beauty of nature and the wonderful environment that surrounded the Black people, they cannot enjoy the life, as they experienced a lot of problems, and felt themselves miserable, because the White oppression was severe.
Indeed, Hughes’s description of Sargeant’s lifestyle was set to explore the social effect of the White’s policies of racism and segregation that eventually led to oppression of the Black people in America. He describes how the White oppression affected the social activity, and social life of the community, and well-being of the Black individuals and families (Shuman 744). All through the narration, Hughes focuses on the exploitation of the Black people by the White people, rich heritage at the expense of the hard toil and oppression of the Black people through slavery, where they get no reward for their hard work. As a result, such treatment subjected the Black people to poverty. The author reflects on their suffering and delayed dreams, like that of Sergeant; he interprets their thoughts, as they go through sorrowful moments in order to come into terms with the lives they are able to lead.
In addition, Hughes’s narration describes Sargeant as one of the thousands Black people, who are starving to death in the streets, due to lack of food that is necessity for survival for every human being. Hughes focuses on the White oppressors, the author contrasts the Whites with the Black people, as they are deprived of all the basic life necessities, ranging from food, shelter, to even clothing, thus, they did not even have a chance to live their destitute lives, or even dream of the goodness that life could offer them (Shuman 743). This is because they had no assurance that they will be able to change their lifestyle, as there were no opportunity that came along, as they unremittingly faced slavery and segregation, based on the day-to-day race discrimination.
There is no doubt that like other Black writers, who had a sense of feeling for their fellow Blacks, who suffered; Hughes utters a cry of anger and intimidation through his narration of Sargeant’s ordeals. There is a clear social impact on the lives of the Blacks, who were discriminated, therefore, Hughes gives the view of the frustrated dreams of his people, like Sargeant, who comes out as the main character in Hughes narration of the White oppression of the Black people.
Hughes further illustrates the shattered dream that has been affected by the continuous false promises that have always led the Black people, like Sargeant, to lose hope in fighting for their freedom from slavery. This is because the White oppressors have always given them unceasingly false promises of assimilation to fight discrimination, and brig about equality, as given by the oppressing White society to the Blacks in order to keep them as their slaves, to make the Black people submissive to them all the times (Wagner 242). However, it has never happened as the Whites has taken advantage of the Blacks.
As a Black person, who had lost hope long ago, Sargeant had faced continuous oppression, as he had experienced it all through his life, thus, it is evidently portrayed through the psychological impact of racism and slavery on the character. Hughes describes Sargeant’s actions, as he was seeking for shelter in the cold night, since he could not sleep on the streets at a particular precarious night that was marked by heavy snowflakes on the streets, although he was used to the streets, as he had spent a lot of nights there (Shuman 743). Hughes further describes that Sargeant was looking for shelter along a lonesome street, he stopped and stood on the sidewalk, as he suffered from hunger, and cold; he looked desperately up and down, as he had nowhere to go.
After some time as Sargeant was pondering over his hopelessness and starvation, he wandered along the abandoned street, he settled upon the entrance of the White’s church along the main street. As Sargeant knew that he would be willingly accepted in the church, since according to him, church was open for all people, he knocked on the church door. His hopes were revived when he saw someone opened the door. Sargeant expected that he would be warmly welcomed, and offered food and a warm place to rest far away from the snowing cold night. The Reverend Mr. Dorset was not very happy to see a Black man standing on his threshold, covered with snow, as he despised the Black people. (Shuman 743). This was evidently a sharp contrast to what ran in the mind of Sargeant, who was destitute and needed help from the House of God, which was to be always open for all people, including the rich, the poor, and the needy. Contrary to the Sargeant’s expectations, the reverend did not give him a chance to ask for help, or even utter a word, as he cut him short.
Therefore, to his dismay the reverend of the church adamantly denied Sargeant access to the church, and, as a result, he feels extremely disappointed, as he least expected to be denied a place to stay in a church, as compared to all the other places that had rejected him before. Indeed, the reverend, who was a high-toned preacher, was not allowed to look down upon Sargeant, but he saw only an unemployed black man; therefore, he did not hesitate to give him a quick brush-off, since he was also influenced by segregation (Shuman 743).
There is no doubt that Sargeant was dismayed by the Reverend's refusal to house him in the church. As a result of desperation and powerlessness, Sargeant could not help himself, and he consequently committed a rash action without considering the consequences, as he could not control his anger and frustration (Shuman 744). He, therefore, moved forward, and used the last bit of the strength he had, despite the tiredness and hunger he had felt before, he ripped down the church door.
Shortly afterwards, he was arrested by the police, who took Sargeant away, and placed him behind bars. This consequently left Sargeant with no other option but to ruminate on his actions that had been stirred by his emotions that did not give him a chance to ponder on his actions. This, therefore, illustrates how the events Sargeant went through lead to a psychological impact on his actions, and how he treated other people. This is because Sargeant has no time to reflect on his actions in terms of how to deal with the rejection, as it affected his mind, especially, as it was triggered by feeling of being discriminated against.
Without a doubt, if Sargeant simply had access to the basic means of survival, like the rich White people did, he would not need to beg for food and shelter (Shuman 743). As a result, Sargeant would not have committed the crime as he had not done it intentionally, but because of desperation and rejection, as he felt he was not needed everywhere. Therefore, if the White oppressors, who continuously made acclamations through their unceasingly false promises of assimilation to fight discrimination and equality against the Blacks, had done so, then the Black people, like Sargeant, would be comfortable.
Therefore, this action would have reduced the level of anger inflicted on the Sargeant’s emotions, as he would be free from the pain and agony of suffering from the White oppression that had forced him into a life full of suppression (Shuman 743). On the other hand, the fact that Sergeant's life was marked with a lot of hardships, due to lack of security, food, shelter, and warmth, lead him to undertake violent actions in an attempt to obtain his basic life necessities. Hughes clearly illustrates that, just like other Black people, Sargeant was tired of fighting, tired of hoping, tired of surviving, as he could not bear the White people, who had continuously suppressed and tormented his life.
There is no doubt that among the Black writers, who highlighted the oppression and slavery that the Black people underwent under the White rule during the depression era, Langston Hughes outstands as one of the most popular voices of the Blacks (Wagner 242). In his narration, On the Road, Hughes describes how the African-Americans underwent exploitation, as they were mistreated and disregarded by a discriminatory society. With Sargeant, as the main character, Hughes gives a repetitive theme of hopelessness among the oppressed Black people that lead to violence.
The main problem that the White oppression had brought to the Black people was to subject them to a life of misery and desperation, as they cannot dream of a better future. With the Black people continuous lack hope and reason, to believe that things will change over time; the Black people have begun to live a life full of hatred and bitterness (Shuman 743). This is evident in Sargeant’s actions, as he faced rejection in every place he went to seek refuge.
Hughes clearly portrays the lifestyle of a destitute black person, when he describes the life of Sargeant who underwent a lot of struggle and determination to fight back the white people in order to gain freedom. Nonetheless, after a long struggle with no futile fruits as they lived in slavery, while they were given false promises of equality among the Blacks and the Whites; this had never happened, as they instead became more enslaved to the Whites (Shuman 744). Because of this reason, the life of many black people, including Sargeant, were at stake, therefore, he was determined to seek a comfort zone, as the life on the cold streets was unbearable.
With nothing to eat, the poor Sargeant was very hungry, and had lost focus of ever getting a better future, as he could not see even the beauty of the nature, when the white snow was flaking just on the brightly lit main street, where he lived. This clearly portrays that despite the struggle that the Black people made, as they did not get anything that made them live a life that lacked even the basic life necessities that every human being alive must possess, so as to live comfortably. The state of depression and desperation that Sargeant had, because he did not get food, depicts the impact of the Whites oppression on the Black people. Just like other black writers, Hughes uses a lot of emphasis on the fact that poverty marked the lives of the Black people, as he explains how hunger and tiredness sends Sargeant to sleep soundly without hearing anything that went on, thereafter, as that was the only way to comfort himself (Shuman 743).
The state of giving up and living a life of survival is another distinctive feature of the Black people’s lifestyle, as they were uncertain of a better future, unlike the White people, who lived in comfort at the expense of the Black people’s work. Hughes clearly gives a picture of how the Black people were living a life of survival, because the Whites continued to oppress them, while the last lacked the basic life necessities (Shuman 743). Hughes describes how Sargeant was living a survival life, as he lacked food and shelter; therefore, he lived an unbearable life full of misery, he could not find comfort. He had no certainty that he could get food or shelter, as he had to sleep in the cold street, and the dangerous snowflakes went down, making the place chilly.
In addition, the fact that he had a deep sleep, because of hunger, tiredness, and cold shows that Sargeant, just like other Black people, was just surviving with no certain hope that life could change someday. Hughes describes how tired he was of surviving, and how he was fighting, as he hoped for a better life. Hughes also shows the psychological impact of violence; the Black people faced a life that was below that of human dignity, they were constantly tired, and, therefore, needed freedom to live a life that is equitable to that of the White people. This is clear through the actions of Sargeant towards the end of the poem; Hughes clearly gives a demonstration of the presence of the Black revolutionary; probably, this is because Sargeant was determined to forcefully gain access to the church, even though the reverend had denied him this access. As a result, Sargeant did not even become remorseful of his next step, because he was filled with anger and despair at the fact that even the church that preached against discrimination could subject the Black man to absolute rejection, even in the situation, when he needed help the most.
Hughes, therefore, provides a clear picture of how the life of survival and despair among the Black people had turned out to be that violent revolution by the Black people themselves, as they were tired of a life full of segregation and oppression. The White did not give a chance to the Black people to have their own life, they happily treated them as slaves that had no sense or feeling of being human beings.
Indeed, Hughes description of Sargeant’s lifestyle is set to explore the social and psychological effect of the White policies of racism and segregation that eventually led to oppression of the Black people in America (Wagner 242). All through the narration, Hughes focuses on the exploitation of the Blacks by the Whites, at the expense of the hard toil and oppression of the Black people through slavery and racial discrimination. This lifestyle subjected them to poverty; the author reflected their suffering and delayed dreams, like that of Sargeant. He interprets their thoughts; as they went through sorrowful moments in order to get chance to live a good life.
Just like other black writers, Hughes’s narration describes Sargeant as one of the thousand Black people, who are victims of survival. He clearly shows how the Whites did not give the Blacks a chance in their destitute lives to dream about the goodness that life can offer them. There is no doubt that the Blacks underwent a lot of suffering and humiliation during the depression era that still runs their history today.