Racism and Oppression in Richard Wright’s Black Boy and James Baldwin’s Go Tell It on the Mountain

Racism and Oppression in Richard Wright’s Black Boy and James Baldwin’s Go Tell It on the Mountain
Racism and Oppression in Richard Wright’s Black Boy and James Baldwin’s Go Tell It on the Mountain

ABSTRACT: This study examined Racism and Oppression in Richard Wright’s Black Boy and James Baldwin’s Go Tell It on the Mountain. It is a known fact that racism and oppression are the major issues in black American literature. As such, this research work attempt to reveal, the themes in Richard Wright’s Black Boy and James Baldwin’s Go Tell it on the Mountain by analyzing the concept of racial segregation of blacks in America. The study also examine the historical perspective of Black Writing narrative and the effects of racism and oppression, which include poverty, hunger, insecurity, assault etc, and the ways through which the blacks reacted to racism. The study reveals that Baldwin’s Go Tell it on the Mountain and Richard Wright’s Black Boy which are black American novels were written to oppose racism and oppression in all ramification and also to gain self pride and identify.

Racism and Oppression in Richard Wright’s Black Boy and James Baldwin’s Go Tell It on the Mountain

The researcher specifically recommended that “love” which “is a strong feeling of caring about someone” (Longman’s Dictionary of contemporary English, 3rd Edition) should be accepted by people of the world to accept one another despite their historical and cultural differences, love should be the binding force for blacks whites, Asians and other races. If people can love each other, problems like racism, war etc would be solved without resorting to violent means.





1.1  Background to the study

Racism in literary studies is defined by Wikipedia as the belief of genetic factors which constitute race as the primary determinates of human traits and capacities and that racial difference produces an inherent superiority of a particular race.

Racism effects are called racial discrimination. Although the term racism usually denotes race based on prejudice, violence, dislike, discrimination or oppression. Racism is also defined simply as a reflection of the economic system and its cultural ethnic and political ways.

The concept of racism is derived from the word race and it is believed that one racial or ethnic group is inferior to another and the unequal treatment is therefore justified.

According to Charles V. Halmton and Kwane Ture, racism is “a prediction of decision on consideration of race for the purpose of subordinating a racial group and maintaining control over that group”. On the other hand, oppression is defined by the encyclopedia as torture or degrading treatment and the use of threat or violence. It is also the exercise of power/authority in a burden, cruel or unjust manner. Oppression is also defined by Wikipedia as an act or instance of oppressing, the state of being oppressed and the feeling of being heavily burdened; mentally or physically by troubles adverse condition and anxiety.

It is this experience of black slaves in Black Boy. In the text, Wright recalls the plight of the early Africans that were sold into slavery between the early1700’s and 1860’s through compliance of their own fellow Africans. They transplanted to America, Canada, Caribbean Island to as “Black Americans” while those in the Caribbean Island are called “Afro Caribbean” but they all have a common roots and common problem – Racial discrimination.

The Africans faced a great order trying to survive hardship on their journey across the Atlantic Ocean on arrival to America; they were conscripted in to force labour, maltreated, abused and demoralized on the Colton fields and plantation where they were put to work as slaves. As a result of this hardship deprivation and degradation, the black began expressing themselves through Negro spiritual which marked the beginning of the artistic expression of the emotion. They told stories of unpleasant experience of slavery and oppression through pamphlet and short stories which formed the basis of Polack writings and which were late referred to as slave Narrative.

James Baldwin on other hand also shows his experience in Go Tell it on the Maintain. Baldwin depicts the insidious effect of systematic racism, producing for us a glimpse of the inhumanity that is the second and third generation result the era of American slavery that took place virtually form the period of colonization through the American cold war. we learn for example in part two that Gabriel’s and Florence’s mother were slaves freed only by the emancipation proclamation of the cold war as a result of this proximity to slavery the characters of the novel suffer a special set of physical, psychological and social circumstance. Gabriel and Florence for example have siblings which they never kwon because as property. The siblings were taken from their mother for various reasons but all having to do with the slave –therefore race –status and circumstance.

The great migration originally held promise of better times and circumstance for each character but ultimate resulted in only a different often more oppression, level and manifestation of the race they were attempting to escape. The consequences of American slave and other investigate of this period that survived the proclamation and the war constitutes the racism that Baldwin depicts in Go Tell It On The Mountain. The project therefore sets out to trace the origin of racism in American and try to expose the horrible experience that the Black slaves went through. The experience that the Blacks recounted by Richard Wright in Black Boy and James Baldwin in Go Tell It On The Mountain will therefore be Analyses to expose the themes of racism and oppression as an aspect of the American society.

1.2         Statement of the problem

The problem created by racism and oppression could be traced to be the major factor behind most Black literature through the ages. In America, this gave rise to a new form of literary expression known as Black American literature or African Americans Literature. The main concern of this sub-genre of literature is to redeem the face of the black man and his culture from the negative to a more positive direction. This study reappraises the development of Black American literature from the 18th century writers, like Phyhes Wheatky and Olandah Equiano, to post slavery era writers, especially of an author like Paul Lawrence Dunbar. Focusing on Dunbar’s The Sport of the gods, the paper express a sad situation where the blacks were made the spectacle (sport) of the whites (gods). Berry Hamilton (a Black American) is used in this novel to share the life story and experiences of other blacks with the readers especially about their encounters with the slave masters.

Therefore, this study seeks to reveal the bad treatments the blacks Americans receive from the hands of the whites.

1.3  Purpose of the study  

The purpose of this study is to create an awareness of racism and oppression using the personal experience of the Richard Wright in his autobiography Black boy and James Baldwin in his partial autobiography GO Tell it On the Mountain.

This work is to reveal the themes of racism and oppression in Black American literature. The intention of the researcher is to show that racism and oppression are prominent themes in Richard Wright’s Black Boy and James Baldwin’s Go Tell it on The Mountain.

The projects expose how racism and oppression affect the mentality and the way of living of the black race, reducing them to a level of inferiority in every aspect of their lives.


Racism and Oppression in Richard Wright’s Black Boy and James Baldwin’s Go Tell It on the Mountain

1.4         Significance of the study

The study of racism and oppression is a universal phenomenon which exposes the viral acts of the whites on the blacks because of the colour of the skin. Therefore, the following are the significance of the study.

  1. This study reveals the origin of racism in America and tries to expose the horrible experience that black slaves went through.
  2. The study will also expose the blacks on the power of education so as to overcome racism in their society.
  3. It will help to reposition and give the blacks a sense of pride by making them to know that their race is not in any way inferior than the other.
  4. This study will not act as a reference point for further researches in related areas.

1.5   Scope and Limitation

The scope and limitation is on the theme of racism and oppression in James Baldwin’s Go Tell it On The Mountain and Richard Wright’s Black Boy so as to prevent the project from being untidy and ambiguous in nature. From intense research, the researcher believes that the two books are enough to fully express the terms of racial segregation and oppression on the cultural, political and racial and social issues going on during the period of 20th century racism. The black race being subordinate to the white race is the main and only scope and limitation of this work.

1.6  Methodology 

The research adopted primary and secondary research to carry out this study.  The        primary method is the use of the main texts of the project. These are Black Boy by Richard Wright and Go Tell It on the mountain by James Baldwin. The Secondary research materials include a selected poems renaissance Writers like Claude Mickay “To The White Friend”, Critical Works, literary journals and internet.

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Peter Hezekiah Lawson (Sir Pee). The CEO of onlineproject.com.ng. A reputable researcher, Web Developer, ICT Instructor and a publisher of many research works in Education.