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As might be expected, such a campaign was least successful with younger migrants, who were caught up in the urban flash and excitement. Dance halls, rent parties, the latest fashions were their preoccupations and their release. In Hughes’ “Roots and Trees,” the difficulties of this forced assimilation are illustrated, as is the need for old roots. Richard Wright stated a lesson he had learned: “I knew that I could never really leave the South, for my feelings had already been formed by the South, for there had been slowly instilled into my personality and consciousness, black though I was, the culture of the South.” In addition to the readings mentioned in the narrative, further readings and authors will include: Lisa Chedekel (New Haven). Lisa’s human interest stories, which appear in the “Register,” will bring the realities, joys, and frustrations of living in New Haven closer to home. Her articles are always well-written and provide a forum for discussion. Gwendolyn Brooks (Chicago). “a song in the front yard” speaks to the discontent of a young girl who has led a restricted life. She wants desperately to take part in the wildness and happiness she can see from her front yard. “Beverly Hill, Chicago” details a car trip through one of Chicago’s better neighborhoods. Differences in houses, customs, and surroundings are noted. The riders once again realize that they don’t have enough. Cyrus Colter (Chicago), “The Beach Umbrella.” Elijah seeks respite from work and family cares each Saturday by going to the lakeshore beach. He sometimes made contact with other people but, more often than not, his attempts failed. He became fascinated by the variety of beach umbrellas, to the point where he knew he must have one. He faces the humiliation of asking his son for a loan, and purchases the umbrella. The umbrella seems to turn his luck; a small group gathers and a party takes place: drinking, mild flirtations. The party continues all day until, to Elijah’s chagrin, the participants decide they must leave. The realization hits him that he won’t be able to repay his son. He wanders the beach, hoping to sell the umbrella; there are no takers. The only solution he sees to his money problems is to take on a job in a steel mill, something he has done before and hated. The respite at the beach and the joy of the colorful beach umbrella are over. Langston Hughes (Harlem). Hughes was a firm believer in the value of humor. His creation, Jesse B. Semple, or “Simple,” shared in that belief. Simple was a man who wondered and laughed at the problems of black folks, white folks, just folks—including himself. “Blue Evening” finds Simple down in the dumps. The woman he loves has left him. An impromptu and joyless party takes place. The loneliness a person can feel, even when surrounded by others, is vividly illustrated. “Empty Room” is a musing on the impersonality of city life and city death and the horror of a lack of mourning. Richard Wright (Memphis). Two excerpts from the early part of Black Boy illustrate Richard’s toughening-up process which will come into play with his move to Chicago. “Hunger” (or “The Streets of Memphis”) details how he learned to stand up for himself, at the insistence of his mother. “Kitten” is a cruel tale in which Richard deliberately sets out to annoy his father, while proclaiming his innocence. The incident ends in a grisly manner.
- Don’t use vile language in public places.
- Don’t act discourteously to other people in public places.
- Don’t allow yourself to be drawn into street brawls.
- Don’t use liberty as a license to do as you please.
- Don’t take the part of law breakers, be they men, women, or children.
- Don’t make yourself a public nuisance.
- Don’t encourage gamblers, disreputable women or men to ply their business any time or place.
- Don’t congregate in crowds on the streets to the disadvantage of others passing along.
- Don’t live in unsanitary houses, or sleep in rooms without proper ventilation.
- Don’t violate city ordinances, relative to health conditions.
- Don’t allow children to beg on the streets.
- Don’t allow boys to steal from or assault peddlers.
Colter, Cyrus. “The Beach Umbrella.” Iowa City: University of Iowa Press, 1972. Short stories.
Grossman, James R. “Land of Hope.” Chicago: The University of Chicago Press, 1991. A detailed study/account of Chicago, the Great Migration—and the changes wrought on blacks and whites.
Hughes, Langston. “The Best of Simple.” New York: Hill and Wang, 1961.
———. “Simple Stakes a Claim.” New York: Rinehart & Company, Inc., 1957.
———. “Simple’s Uncle Sam.” New York: Hill and Wang, 1965.
Lemann, Nicholas. “The Promised Land.” New York: Vintage Books, 1991. A personalized account of the Great Migration. Through interviews, Lemann followed the fortunes and misfortunes of some migrants from Clarksdale, Mississippi to Chicago. Incredibly interesting reading.
Contents of 1992 Volume III | Directory of Volumes | Index | Yale-New Haven Teachers Institute