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The Color Purple

A Struggle to Express Themselves

There is one primordial reason why we do not doubt Europeans have
taken the lead in history, in all epochs before and after 1492, and it has
little to do with evidence. It is a basic belief which we inherit from
prior ages of thought and scarcely realize that we hold: it is an implicit
belief, not an explicit one, and it is so large a theory that it is woven
into all of our ideas about history, both within Europe and without. . .
(Blaut pg. 6-7).

African-American people have had to climb over many obstacles to get to
their position today.  First, was the selling of their people into slavery.
Then, they endured   slavery itself, being treated like an animal.  After
slavery was abolished, Colored people still had to deal with racial
discrimination and hatred. If this sounds rough, black women had it worse.
African-American women had to deal with all the previously  mentioned
things, but they were women too!  Females were oppressed almost as bad as
the blacks.   White women were not able to vote until the 1920.  Therefore
colored women had a double edged sword, they had to fight for freedom, but
not be to dominate as to effect the men.  Alice Walker’s The Color Purple is
a good example of colored women’s plight.    Three obstacles black women had
to overcome to be able to express themselves were Racism, the lack of
education, and the stereo-type that women are inferior.

African-Americans have always experienced racism throughout their
habitation in America.  Slavery, is what caused most of the hatred towards
blacks. African Americans were sold by their people and sent off to a
foreign land.  Colored people were used as work horses when they entered
America.  “It was acceptable for a white person to be lazy (in the South),
and therefore, a white person takes advantage of this”  (Theriault).  White
people wanted to keep their laziness.  If the slaves were set free, then the
whites would have to do more work.  The slaves still fought for what they
wanted, and finally won their “independence.”  Another dilemma was  “if the
south could abolish slavery, what would happen to the slaves? These slaves
have been slaves for all their lives and would require education. These
slaves would also require homes, some type of compensation, and more”
(Theriault).   Blacks were put in prison for rebelling against the white
establishment.  Most times these crimes were minuscule in comparison to the
crimes committed against blacks or by whites.  A colored person could be put
in jail for looking at someone inappropriately, but if a black man was
lynched, nothing happened.  “I have been locked by the lawless. Handcuffed
by the haters. Gagged by the greedy. And, if I know any thing at all, it’s
that a wall is just a wall and nothing more at all. It can be broken down”
(Shakuer).  This excerpt from “Affirmation” is an example of the feelings of
hatred for the Whites.  However, this quotation also shows the fight in the
African-American race let alone its women.  If the South could have kept
education away from the blacks. Then ides as the one above would have never
been published.

Lack of education was a way the South tried to keep the blacks in a lower
class. In The Color Purple, Celie is not allowed to go to school because she
is to be kept barefoot and pregnant.  She still received an education by
learning what her little sister was teaching her, though.  It was believed
that if the blacks were kept uneducated then they would not know any better
and would not fight for freedom.  Unfortunately, for the South, the North
was educating their blacks.  Then these blacks were coming south and
starting colleges for colored people.  Booker T. Washington wrote, in his

ONE day, while at work in the coal-mine, I happened to overhear two miners
talking about a great school for coloured people somewhere in Virginia. This
was the first time that I had ever heard anything about any kind of school or
college that was more pretentious than the little coloured school in our town.
In the darkness of the mine I noiselessly crept as close as I could to the two
men who were talking. I heard one tell the other that not only was the school
established for the members of any race, but the opportunities that it provided
by which poor but worthy students could work out all or a part of the cost of a
board, and at the same time be taught some trade or industry.

Thus the education had begun.  Most coloreds were not able to read or write
because they were never exposed to an education.  Black women again had it
worse because they were women.  Women were believed to be weak and
incompetent in comparison with men.  This has since been disproved, but it
was the practice in those days.  In The Color Purple, Harpo, Mr.
marries an independent Black woman.  Sophia is bigger than Harpo and does not
really do what he says.  When Harpo beats Sophia to “make her mind,” she beats
him.  The idea that a man has to beat a woman follows right along with the
stereo-type that women are inferior.

The hackneyed image that women were inferior was basically just a myth. The
black women in the book The Color Purple did all the work.  Celie would get
up to cook, clean, go out and work in the fields all day, then come back and
cook and clean some more.  Sophia would work in the fields, repair the roof,
and take care of the children.  The  men, Mr.     and Harpo, would sit and
not do much.  Then if the women ever said anything they would beat them.  It
was not until Shug Avery came along did Celie realize not to take men
seriously.  Ms. Avery and Celie did become lesbians, but Shug taught Celie
that a person has to stand up for themselves, if they want respect. As Celie
and Shug fell in love, Celie grew as a person.  She started to stand up  to
Mr.  Celie also started to wear  pants.  In doing so, she was showing her
independence. In those days,  men were only supposed to be clothed in pants.
Celie was showing, in a small way, that a woman can do anything a man can.
Through help from  Shug, Celie started a successful business making pants
for all the relatives.  This is another way Shug helped Celie gain her
independence.  Women were supposed to rely on men for everything (i.e. food,
clothing, shelter, etc.).  With Celie making her own money she did not need
a man.  Celie and her sister Nettie also owned a house, which was left to
them by their step-father.  Celie is further independent from men.  Celie
found a way out by acquiring a plan. This plan was patterned after an
already independent woman, Shug. Shug got out by singing, Nettie by being a
missionary, and Celie by making pants.  Any minority that is being oppressed
can learn from The Color Purple.  A minority can pattern his/her assent to
greatness after someone who came from similar backgrounds.   All minorities
can take this advice to heart.  Stand up for what is believed. Make a

African-American women have overcome quite a bit in order to get to be
where they are today.  Colored women have(and are still) over coming racism,
lack of education, and the myth that women are inferior.  Black women have
taken care of their children, men, land and themselves for years.  The book
The Color Purple shows the previous point very well. This book teaches that
if there is a struggle, someone will overcome it.  The book also teaches
minorities a way to get out of their present  situation. First, the desire
has to be there, then all the minority has to do is pattern themselves after
someone else who has made it out of the ghetto.  Even though this book is in
the great depression , the lessons  it teaches can still be applied in
today’s society.  I think it is finally time black women earn the respect
they deserve.  I would like to thank Alice Walker for writing a book that
has opened my eyes to the struggles of African-American women.  I never knew
that they had to over come so much in their community let alone the rest of
the world.

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