Sunday, January 23, 2011

Native Son and the 24th Amendment

  On January 23 in Black History...Richard Wright, Amanda Smith and the 24th Amendment

In 1941,Richard Wright wins the Spingarn Medal for "Native Son,"  a novel which tells the story of 20-year-old Bigger Thomas, an African American living in utter poverty.  Bigger lived in Chicago's South Side ghetto in the 1930s. Bigger was always getting into trouble as a youth, but upon receiving a job at the home of the Daltons, a rich, white family, he experienced a realization of his identity. He thinks he accidentally killed a white woman, runs from the police, rapes and kills his girlfriend and is then caught and tried. "I didn't want to kill", Bigger shouted. "But what I killed for, I am! It must've been pretty deep in me to make me kill." 
Richard Wright was author of powerful, sometimes controversial novels, short stories and non-fiction. Much of his literature concerns racial themes. His work helped redefine discussions of race relations in America in the mid-20th century.   It is generally agreed that Wright's influence in Native Son is not a matter of literary style or technique. His impact, rather, has been on ideas and attitudes, and his work has been a force in the social and intellectual history of the United States in the last half of the twentieth century. "Wright was one of the people who made me conscious of the need to struggle", said writer Amiri BarakaWright received several different literary awards during his lifetime including the Spingarn Medal in 1941, the Guggenheim Fellowship in 1939, and the Story Magazine Award
Amanda Smith

In 1837, Amanda Berry Smith, born into slavery, becomes an independent missionary and travels the U.S. and three other continents.   Smith was a former slave who became an inspiration to thousands of women both black and white. She was born in Long Green, Maryland, a small town in Baltimore County. Her father's name was Samuel Berry while her mother's name was Mariam. Her father, a slave, worked for years at night and after long days of field labour, he had to make brooms and husk mats to pay for freedom for his whole family of 7.  She worked hard as a cook and a washerwoman to provide for herself and her daughter after her husband was killed in the American Civil War. Prayer became a way of life for her as she trusted God for shoes, the money to buy her sisters freedom and food for her family. She became well known for her beautiful voice and hence, opportunities to evangelize in the South and West opened up for her. Wherever she travelled, she wore a plain poke bonnet and a brown or black Quaker wrapper, and she carried her own carpetbag suitcase.
In 1876, she was invited to speak and sing in England travelling on a first class cabin provided by her friends. The captain invited her to conduct a religious service on board and she was so modest that the other passengers spread word of her and resulted in her stay in England and Scotland for a year and a half. After her trip, she returned to her homeland and eventually founded the Amanda Smith Orphans' Home for African-American children in a suburb of Chicago. She continued to visit various nations and gained a reputation as "God's image carved in ebony."  Smith's autobiography was published in 1893.
In 1964, the 24th Amendment to the US Constitution is ratified. It abolishes poll tax, which was used as a means of preventing African-Americans from voting. 

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