In his letter titled "My Dungeon Shook," James Baldwin writes to his nephew about racism that still exists and will exist in the future. Has the Civil Rights Movement succeeded at all in resolving...

In his letter titled "My Dungeon Shook," James Baldwin writes to his nephew about racism that still exists and will exist in the future. Has the Civil Rights Movement succeeded at all in resolving that problem?  If so, how?

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Tamara K. H. eNotes educator| Certified Educator

In his letter to his nephew titled "My Dungeon Shook," written in 1963, writer James Baldwin makes the important point that all his nephew has to do is look around at the Harlem ghetto in which he was born to see the still active reality of the feelings of white supremacy, the existence of white oppression of African Americans, and the existence of racism. In fact, as Baldwin phrases it, "This innocent country set you down in a ghetto in which, in fact, it intended that you should perish." Baldwin continues to describe how by being placed in a ghetto, his nephew and all African Americans have had their ambitions limited, have "been told [they were] worthless human being[s], and been told they are "not expected to aspire to excellence" but instead must "make peace with mediocrity."

Today, 61 years after the start of the African-American Civil Rights Movement, beginning in 1954 and lasting into the 60s, though improvements have been made, the prevalence of the African-America ghetto still bears testimony that racism still exists and that African Americans are still marginalized.

In an article posted on the website of the National Bureau of Economic Research titled "The Rise and Decline of the American Ghetto," authors and researchers David Cutler, Edward Glaesar, and Jacob Vigdor argue that "on average, 60% of blacks would have to move in order for blacks and whites to be equally distributed in American cities." Their article continues to explore historical reasons for segregation and to see that reasons have certainly changed. The authors in particular saw that, today, the predominant reason for segregation is that simply "whites pay more than blacks to live in predominantly white areas." The authors further saw that segregation is even increasing in the largest cities.

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My Dungeon Shook

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