Colored People, by Henry Louis Gates Jr.

1745 Words7 Pages
One of the most influential and enlightening scholars in contemporary academics who focuses primarily on African-American issues, both from the past and the present, is undoubtedly Henry Louis Gates, Jr. Born in 1950 and raised in the small, middle-class, 'colored' community of Piedmont, West Virginia, Gates's acclaimed 1995 autobiography, Colored People, brings readers to a place and time in America when both the racial boundaries and the definition of progress were changing weekly. Colored People, however, is not about race specifically. Rather, it is a story which chronicles how his family existed during a unique time in American history -- a time when attempts at desegregation were just beginning. Starting with a preface that…show more content…
When the depictions of the Gates and family and the Coleman family -- which show how although being colored was no disgrace, also show of it was awfully inconvenient -- are taken together, we, as readers, get a sense of the freedom that integration offered, but also the fear of the future that African-Americans sensed, for they -- as one would expect -- found it difficult to leave behind the life they knew for a new, uncertain one. In fact, recent decades have proved that the fear of uncertainty that Gates's relatives had was reasonable. Take, for example, 'affirmative action,' which was a result of integration. The greater civil rights that it was supposed to trigger did not happen. In fact, because those most in need still lacked "competitive resources that would allow them to take advantage of the opportunities for individual advancement available in a more meritocratic society," the most economically deprived of African-Americans benefited little from 'affirmative action' (Gross, 71). This statement referencing our current situation in post-integration America most definitely supports the fears that the Gates and the Coleman family had back in the 1950s and 1960s. In addition to seeing concrete examples -- from members of both the Gates and the
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