The African-American Nightmare Exposed in Black Literature Essay

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African-American Nightmare Exposed in Olaudah Equiano, Narrative of Frederick Douglass, Song of Solomon, and Push

The American Dream was founded on the concept that "all men are created equal"(Jefferson 729) and that everyone has the capability and resources to "pull themselves up by their bootstraps." The Declaration of Independence was written so Americans could achieve this dream, but was not written with the African slave in mind. The African slave was never intended to be a part of this American Dream, therefore, not capable of obtaining it. These slaves were beaten up and/or lynched by their massas with these bootstraps instead of being "pulled up" by them.


Even after the signing of the Emancipation Proclamation in 1863, Blacks still did not have access to all of the privileges of the white world. The Jim Crow laws of 1877 constantly reminded Blacks of their second-class citizenship and also limited them to certain areas and to very few resources. Signs reading "Whites Only" or "Colored" hung over restroom doors, drinking fountains and other public places.


The dominant American Dream narrative involves voluntary participation, forgetting the past, and privileging the individual while the alternative Dream narrative of American minorities involves forced participation, connecting tot the past, and privileging the group-the traditional (extended) or alternative families. So, clearly, to the African-American, there were and still are many restrictions that go along with the American Dream.


The great civil rights leader, Dr. Martin Luther King in his famous speech, "I Have a Dream," delivered August 28, 1963 at the Lincoln Memorial during the March on Washington, D.C., supports these limi...

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...Life of Frederick Douglass. 1845. The Classic Slave Narratives. Ed. Henry Louis Gates, Jr. New York: Penguin Group, 1987.

Equiano, Olaudah. The Life of Olaudah Equiano. 1814. The Classic Slave Narratives. Ed. Henry Louis Gates, Jr. New York: Penguin Group, 1987.

Hughes, Langston. "Dream Deferred". Literature, Reading Fiction, Poetry, Drama & the Essay. 4th Edition, Published by McGraw Hill, 1998.

Jefferson, Thomas. The Declaration of Independence. 1776. The Norton Anthology of American Literature, 4th ed. v.1,ed. Nina Baym et al (NY: Norton, 1994), 729.

King, Jr., Martin Luther. "I Have a Dream." A Testament of Hope: The Essential Writings of Martin Luther King Jr., Ed. J. M. Washington. Harper & Row, 1986. 217, 219.

Morrison, Toni. Song of Solomon. New York: The Penguin Group, 1977.

Sapphire. Push. New York: Vintage Contemporaries, 1996.


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