Study Guide

Color Me Real

by Joan California Cooper

Color Me Real Summary

Summary (Comprehensive Guide to Short Stories, Critical Edition)

In “Color Me Real,” a third-person narrator relates how Minna, a thirteen-year-old African American girl in a small southern town, is seduced by her white employer and bears him two children, Era and her brother. Because he will not pay her the money he owes her and still insists on sex, Minna uses herbs and roots to make a potion that blinds him and eventually makes him impotent. Despite the way she has been treated, she tends the man until he dies. As the children grow older, she works in a schoolhouse so that they can get an education.

The story’s focus shifts from Minna to her daughter, Era, who at age seventeen, rejects her childhood protector, George, and leaves for New York with four hundred dollars of her father’s money. To get ahead more quickly, the light-skinned young woman chooses to live as a white person. She attends secretarial school and secures a job at a brokerage firm. She marries one of the firm’s clients and is happy until she finds him in bed with a black woman. When she tells him that she also is black, he beats her and divorces her.

Era returns home, meets George again, has an argument with her brother at her mother’s wedding to Arthur, and leaves for Chicago a short time later. While working for a black political candidate, she meets Reggie, a black lawyer, who believes that she is white. At a party at which the guests consist mostly of black men married to white women, the conversation turns to the inferiority of black women, and Reggie declares that he will tell his son not...

(The entire section is 627 words.)