Robert Johnson's Black Boy

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The blues is a genre that has spent large amounts of time attempting self-definition. It is no coincidence that it arose at a time when African American people in the South of the United States were attempting their own self-definition and self-identification. As black people in the post-slavery period of Jim Crow law struggled to define their place in society they needed an outlet for their deep emotional and physical pains. This is where the blues emerged. Robert Johnson’s lyrics are just one among many blues songs that attempted to articulate the deep-seated injustice black Americans felt at their position in the world. However, while the blues is most famous as a musical genre, it should not be “reduced to a particular combination of…show more content…
Whilst Johnson’s quote accurately summates his views on what the blue’s represents to him, the blues is too extensive an emotion and genre to ever be able to be contained within such a small quote. Most crucially, it fails to mention what may be the most crucial component of the blues genre: the concept of the blues as a mode of resistance. This is a major part of Black Boy and a significant reason for why it is described as blues literature. Black Boy does not only aim for continuation on the part of black southerners, but it strives for change from the omnipresent oppression and subjugation of African American people. Wright does this through a dual pronged attack on not only Jim Crow life and the white society that enacted it, but also at black society and the ease with which it fulfilled its expected role. In Black Boy Wright writes of how “smoothly black boys acted out the roles that the white race had mapped out for them. Most of them were not conscious of living a special, separate, stunted way of life” and much of the novel devotes itself to recognising and changing the way in which a black community ousts any individual who attempts to create waves in the sea of oppression that surrounds Southern black society. Ellison furthers this, describing how “to wander from the paths of behaviour laid down for the group is to become the agent of communal disaster” and this must be shut down by an “elaborate scheme of taboos supported by a ruthless physical violence” . The unsettling and disturbing stories and images that Wright presents his readers “were a means to be uses to shift the bedrock of public sensibility in the direction of support for racial

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