Gayle writes with the perspective of someone who has lived through the Civil Rights movement in the 1960’s, the Black Power movement that changed the way that whites saw African Americans and the way that African Americans saw themselves. Although the author is critical of Dunbar’s dialect poetry, he is also compassionate toward him regarding the reasons that he chose to write these poems. He states that Dunbar was not a great poet and that his fame was mostly attributable to the political forces that led him to create dialect poetry in order to gain an audience.
Young readers, both African American and white, will be inspired by Dunbar’s discipline and belief in himself as a writer. He was strong in resisting the efforts of others, primarily his mother, who wanted him to choose another occupation. His independence and persistence provide a good example.
As painful as it may be for some readers to learn about the institution of slavery, it is important for relationships with one another, especially among African Americans and white Americans, to know what took place. Gayle touches on the forces at work, the destruction of the slaves’ memory of Africa, and the myth of happy slaves. In Dunbar’s time, African Americans were attempting to assimilate into mainstream culture without being subjected to violence, as lynchings were common, and trying to support themselves in a society that offered them few resources.
(The entire section is 957 words.)
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