Saturday, September 29, 2007

"The Task of Negro Womanhood" 10/1

In “The Task of Negro Womanhood” we learn that African American women are not all the stereotypical domestic laborers, rather they are struggling for education and economic opportunity just as their white counterparts of the time. As business owners and clerical workers they are struggling (and in some cases succeeding) for advancements. As college educated teachers and social workers they are educating both the black and white students, as well as forming and leading social organizations designed to benefit women and children. As union members they are demanding better education and an understanding of union rights, and even when they are domestic laborers, they strive to clearly outline work distinctions, so as to spend more time caring for their own families. Elise MacDougald makes clear that African American women will not be considered the “Aunt Jemima’s” of old, and in fact, that they are valued members of their races improvement.
Of course, this argument cannot be made without some response to the commonly held belief, even at that time, that African American women were some how inherently less moral than other women, making their economic struggles suspicious, and even their role as mothers and teachers some how less valid. Thus, she sites “sex irregularities” or moral standards a factor of socio- economic conditions, and not of race. Specifically pointing out that;
illegitimacy among negroes is cause for shame and grief. When economic social and
biological factors combine to bring about unwed motherhood, the reaction is much the
same as in families in other racial groups.”(380)
She goes on to say that stigma does fall on the unwed mother, but the general attitude is one is of the way in which more modern thought would deemed it appropriate to treat the unfortunate, conjuring ideas of sympathy and understanding. Similar to what we can discern from Jean Toomer’s Cane.
Although many of the women described in Cane would be considered “loose” by the periods standards, it is clear that Toomer sympathizes with women who must struggled and often, be subjected to sexual mistreatment, in order to survive. It is also evident that these women, specifically Fern, show a repentance and desire to understand what they have done. Thus, portraying these women as clearly understanding of moral norms, and at odds with the way they sometimes have to live. A fact not portrayed by writers of the period and even there after, who described the black women of the south as either ‘the mammy or the sex object .’
I found this week’s reading to be very interesting, maybe because we haven’t really read that much pertaining to African American women so far. Also, I’m interested to see things being written about African Americans in the workforce, especially by women in this time period. During the labor seminar last semester I got a chance to read a lot of work with a similar thesis (by authors such as Patricia Morton and Tera Hunter.) However, I got the impression that this was a relatively new ideology, which, if even discussed in primary documents, was only in newspaper articles by the likes of Marvel cooke and Ella Baker some time later.

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Useful Link to Toomer theme? (It Don't Make any Difference to Me)

Okay, So I've just spent the past twenty minutes trying to find any kind of picture of the November Cotton Flower, however, no such luck. It seems so one named Marion Brown made a jazz album live from Japan with that tittle. However, all the links to the album image don't work. So, as I was searching, I thought about the last topic discussed in the Social Studies Methods class, how to incorporate music and song lyrics for different types of learning styles. That reminded me of a song I heard recently, and after much searching, I came across a link to a video by Kevin Michael. A song about a man who is of mixed race. Not sure about the lyrics, but I think he says "he was black and she was white...." which was sticking in my head, reminding me of the "Becky" story. (I know, you have just followed a long train of thought there, but I did say "thoughts from the history major" and my mind makes odd connections. Either way, it's a good song for those who are interested.

Saturday, September 22, 2007

The Women of Cane 9/24

Honestly, I was more than a little confused by this week’s readings from Cane. It’s obvious that he was heavily influenced by the lives of women in the south, and was not afraid to write about sexual interaction between men and women, both black and white as I guess pretty common occurrence. But I come away from the reading confused, like I’m supposed to understand the much deeper meaning behind this, but don’t. Therefore, I’ve decide to use my blog entry to discuss “Esther”, “Carma” and “Becky” in the order of how little I actually understand and not the order in which they appear in the book. Here goes…
I was especially confused by “Esther.” Perhaps I wasn’t reading closely, but I wasn’t even aware she was black until getting to the section where she is twenty-two and working in her father’s store. (I guess I took the being description of her “chalk-white face” to literally.) Furthermore I don’t understand King Barlo’s character. I understand that he must be some sort of oddity in the community, and obviously there are those who hold him in high esteem for his ability to have visions. I also discern that he is speaking of slavery when he rises from his trace and tells the crowd about the big black man that comes from the old coast (21.) Esther also seems to know his significance when she thinks of him when she thinks of him as “Promoter of church benefits. Of colored fairs.” (23.) But what the baby symbolize and why is she so determined to be with him? Is it some reference to the fact that she is light skinned and he, as the baby in her dream is dark? Furthermore, what’s the point of the end; “The thought comes suddenly that conception with a drunken man must be a mighty sin.” (25.) Is it really some sort of morality ending, or does or has it to do with the thought of having the black baby as in her dream? I mean, she was planning on sleeping with him to begin with, was she not worried that would be considered a sin?
Similarly, I get the feeling that “Carma is some sort of morality tale as to the role of women. Obviously, Carma did not follow gender roles considering it is well known that she is strong any man, and yet, men are still so interested in her that she is able to be with them when her husband is away on the gang. What I don’t understand is if she intended to kill herself or just make her husband believe she did, he was obviously very angry that she was with other men while he was away, did he really intend to save her?(11) I guess what I’m really asking is, what happened at the end? Did he kill the man who had found his wife?
(Just a note, is anyone else pronouncing her name like Karma?)
Lastly, “Becky” was one I think I can understand, or at least make some sense of based on the theme we’ve seen so far in class. Obviously, this is very clearly a story about the dangerous of mixing the races. Everyone, both black and white outwardly dislikes Becky, the stupid, crazy white girl having a black man’s baby. Yet some how out of the kindness of their heart, they leave her food and prayers. (while none the less having run her out of town.) As the story sates over and over, no one ever saw her, but they do see her baby boy, who soon after is caring for another baby, also of mixed race. As the boys grow up they find they have no place in the town among the white or the black, and so leave town, perhaps leaving their mother Becky behind. Somewhere after that, it turns into a type of ghost story, the kind every small town has and all the movies make fun of. I guess I picture the narrator of this story like the kids running away from Boo Radley (To Kill A Mocking Bird.) However, that they never even find out whether Becky was dead, or even if she had been their all along. Rather, they assume that if she was still alive and living there at the time of the cabin collapse her body would be found beneath the mound, with the influence of the Bible once again passing judgment on her.

Saturday, September 15, 2007

Claude McKay Poems-9/17

I definitely noticed that McKay seemed to be speaking to a white audience in many of the poems. In fact, “Dominant white” is specifically addressed to them, as he uses ‘you’ in the poem. He certainly seems angry, but at the same time, he seems to believe that a higher power (in the case of this poem) God will eventually bring justice, as his refrain; “And God shall humble you down to the dust.”

Although the wording in many of the other poems is not as explicit, I get the impression that many of them are saying the very same thing. Such as in “The White House” when he is obviously expressing his anger, but knows he cannot act upon it.

Oh I must search for wisdom every hour,
Deep in my wrathful bosom sore and raw,
And find it in the superhuman power
To hold me to the letter of your law!
Oh I must keep my heart inviolate
Against the potential poison of your hate.

Similarly, I think “The Negro Dancers” is also intended to reach a white audience, but for different reasons. In this case I think “The Negro Dancers” showcases the talent and future potential of African Americans and points out that, regardless of the troubles they face, they still find joy in life. Furthermore, it seems to express that African Americans are determined to keep progressing. Perhaps in this way, it is intended to scare a white audience as much as the wrath of God does in his other poems.

Sunday, September 9, 2007

Thoughts for 9/10 Reading

At first I wasn’t sure why the narrator would talk so much about the place where they gamble, especially because he seems to be “above” the lower classes of people in the beginning of the book. However, he does express sympathy for them, because he understands how they can get so caught up in gambling, as he apparently does. The major reason I think he brings it up is to contrast with the club where the arts attract large numbers of both white and black people.
Although it’s sort of seedy, it is a place that boasts the pride of its people with all its photos and the space for dance teams (etc.) to practice. In this way, arts or musical talents not only lift up his people, but him as well, when he gets the job as the Rag Time piano player.
Similarly, he contrast Paris with London, obviously with a um…”strong dislike” of the English people. I guess this makes sense as the French obviously had different views on race and prejudice. He doesn’t seem to point it out very clearly, except maybe when he mentions white girls sitting with him and his patron, or maybe the fact that he can free come and go to the opera and things like that without being segregated. (I guess because he was sitting next to a white girl, actually his sister, but I don’t even want to get started on that, because I don’t even have a theory on that.)