Civil rights movement

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The American Civil Rights Movement and its Influence on Art

The American country was characterized by passionate civil rights battles during the 1960s. The majority of writers, artists, and literature lovers during this time were involved in these protest campaigns. The majority of artists produced songs, paintings, poems, and dances as acts of political dissent or out of a need to inspire a feeling of social and political awakening. During the civil rights movement, authors, painters, and other creatives of all races produced work of art that was largely influenced by their personal perceptions of injustice. There are numerous poets from the civil rights period including W.E.B Du Bois, Countee Cullen, Frances Ellen, Langston Hughes, James Weldon among others who wrote poems of the freedom movement. Most of these poems currently represent the voices of the contemporary Americans since most of them advocate for equality, opportunities and peaceful co-existence of all Americans regardless of the ethnic, political, religious or socioeconomic differences. A case in example of such as poem is Langston Hughes’ Cross (Hughes 17).

Poetry Reflecting Multicultural America and Inequality

My old man’s a white old man

And my old mother’s black

If ever I cursed my white old man

I take my curses back.

If I ever cursed my black old mother

And wished she were in hell,

I’m sorry for that evil wish

And now I wish her well

My old man died in a fine big house.

My ma died in a shack.

I wonder were I’m going to die,

Being neither white nor black?

This is a poem from the civil war period which according to my opinion represents the voices of Americans in the contemporary society. Basically, the poem represents the nature of the American multicultural societies and the struggles associated with a sense of identity. During the civil rights war, most states had drafted laws that prohibited intermarriage between the whites and the African Americans. Such discriminatory policies influenced poets like Langston Hughes to take it upon themselves to advocate such issues through poetry. Secondly, the poem Cross further explains the level of inequality in the American society during the period. Ironically, this level of inequality is still present currently in America. Generally, the minority groups in America are underprivileged compared to the majority whites. These socioeconomic inequalities are witnessed in areas such as education, access to health and even employment. Statistics show that compared to the minority groups, the majority groups are likely to have a higher annual income.

The Role of Theater in Shaping American Society

Between the 18th century and early 19th century, acting as profession was considered sinful whereby the actors received social ostracism (Klaic 26). However, by mid-19th century, there was a major shift whereby actors became socially respectable. Actors also became prominent persons in the society, politics, and literature. In the history of theater, there have been performances which seek to address various issues of current events affecting the society. Both comic poets and political satire performances have been central towards influencing the public opinion on governance and politics. An example of an author in political theater is William Shakespeare. Many of the tragedies in his work such as Macbeth and King Lear are critical in dramatizing the political leadership. In addition, political theater has been used in the contemporary American society to promote specific political theories and ideals. Apart from political theaters, other forms of plays have also been used to address issues affecting women especially on their rights and raising gender equality awareness. Between 1960 and 1970, feminist authors Caryl Churchill and Elfriede Jelinek advanced this form of theater. Political satire plays such as That was the Week That was produced in the 1960s was critical towards enhancing the political awareness among Americans (Bay and Jones 170). The literacy work played a major role in shaping the modern American society as we experience it.

Discoveries from the Course

During this course, I have discovered a lot I did not know as a student, a writer, and a reader. First, I have had an opportunity to familiarize myself with various authors, performers, and artists from other centuries I did not know about. Through various readings, I have discovered that today's literature borrows heavily from these early authors whose work shaped the course for modern literature. I have also been able to develop a timeline on how the American literature has evolved over the years to its current status. Therefore, compared to how I started this course, I can confidently state that I have a better understanding of what American literature pertains.

The Power of Literature to Address Sociopolitical Issues

As a writer, I have discovered that literary work has a lot of untapped potential which can be unlocked to address our political and socioeconomic environment. Based on earlier experiences of other artists, authors such as Shakespeare and Langston, I have realized literature has a lot of influence on the society as well as on the behavior of the political class. With the introduction of motion pictures several decades ago, actors were able to showcase their art in the form of plays with the aim of enhancing political awareness among the people. Alternatively, films, plays, and poems have been used over the years to address social issues affecting the society such as inequality, discrimination and minority rights. They have also been used to foster the spirit of nationalism, resilience, and accountability among the politicians and public officials in order to counter negative societal issues such as corruption, nepotism and favoritism especially in allocation of jobs and resources.

I have also discovered that I need to engage more in American literature through extensive reading and research. Since the American literature reflects human ideas, beliefs, and societies, extensive engagement in literary work will improve my cultural competency. Consequently, I will be in a position to interact with people who are different from me in terms of ethnicity, culture, beliefs, and political orientation. Literature is diverse in its portrait as well as how it depicts the world. Therefore, by engaging in literature, I will be in a better position to discover common human ways to understand life and its purpose.

Understanding Human Psychology through Literature

Throughout the course, I have gained a better understanding of the knowledge of the human psyche. This is because the contents of literary work such as poems, essays, narratives, and diaries are composed of human reactions. Also, different characters within the literary work exhibit different characteristics in terms of behavior, dressing, talking, and actions. All this diversity has been helpful since I am now able to view things from the position of others. In addition, comparing my own life to the lives of the characters in the literature has also enabled me to gain greater knowledge of myself.

Work Cited

Bay, Geoffrey and Jeffrey P. Jones. News Parody and Political Satire Across the Globe. Routledge, 2013.

Hughes, Langston. Langston Hughes and the Chicago Defender: Essays on race, politics, and culture, 1942-62. Urbana: University of Illinois Press, 1995.

Klaic, Dragan. Resetting the Stage: Public Theatre Between the Market and Democracy. Bristol: Intellect, 2012.

June 26, 2023

Federal Government

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