Shades of Black

Keziah Knights 01/24/11 English 102 Dr. Gavin “Shades of Black” -Mary Mebane “Shades of Black” is an excerpt from Mary Mebane’s first autobiographical volume. In it, Mebane writes about the different types of black and the depictions of them in society. More specifically, how women of color are viewed and treated. Views of black woman have changed since the civil rights movement. From the 1950s to the 1970s, the views of black beauty have changed from one of reverence to one of disgust.

Many different problems and obstacles present themselves to woman of color. Mebane writes about the ways in which black black girls and lighter skin African American girls were treated and viewed. Mebane stated, “by the twentieth century, really black skin on a woman was considered ugly”(Mebane 239). During the early 1900s, black woman were not really desired. At one point, they were though. Around the civil rights movement, black men considered black woman beautiful.

As Mebane mentions, there is no definite date for the shift from beautiful to ugly, but it is undeniable that a shift did occur. This shift from desired to no desire could be referred to as the black consciousness movement. Between the 1960s and the 1970s, darker skin woman were not looked at much. Instead, black men chased after lighter skin woman and woman of a different decent. Woman of a darker shade faced a new problem. They were already part of the minority, now they were placed even lower.

Because of their color, darker women had difficulty finding partners as well as jobs. In order to be recognized, darker women had to either befriend a light skin “beauty”, or turn to sex. According to Mebane and others, sexual acts were the only advantage a black woman had in getting ahead. Because they were no longer considered beautiful, black women were only good for sex. In regards to having a career, or even a job, black women actually had to have skill. Since they were not very appealing to the eye, darker skin women had to be appealing on paper.

Training was the only way in which a darker shade of African American woman could land a job. She had to be trained better than the lighter skin women in order to be hired. Sometimes, training was hard to receive since they were not very wealthy. If darker skin women were able to receive training, they were not treated fairly because of their color. Therefore, black black women had to fight through in order to get enough training. African American woman faced a lot of problems in society during the twentieth century.

Although they were once thought of as beautiful, for most of their lives their color took away from what they could have been capable of. Lighter skin African American women were not as burdened by their color as black black woman. Being educated, finding a partner, and landing a job were amongst some of the problems darker skinned women faced between the civil rights movement and the black consciousness movement. Again, there is no definite point of change, but there is no denying that there was a shift and unfortunately it wasn’t a positive one.

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