In "Everyday Use," what do Dee's new name and costume and her concern for her heritage have in common regarding social movements?

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susan3smith eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Yes, Dee's clothes, name, and concern for her heritage reflect the Black Pride movement of the sixties.  Dee wants to celebrate her African roots, a desire that  Alex Haley's Roots inspired in Americans throughout the decade.  And yet, Dee's new interests are portrayed as whims and fads, and somewhat materialistic.  She is not really interested in the butter churn as a butter churn but as a center piece for the table.  She wants the churn for display, not for use.   She suddenly wants the quilts because she knows that they are handmade and therefore valuable.  She is not interested at all in the woman who made the quilts.  She has no true interest in her own family or relatives, but only in a created past.  She takes on an African name because she does not want the name of a slave owner, yet she was named after her grandmother. 

Through Dee, Walker seems to be satirizing the sudden interest in African heritage while neglecting  and not appreciatiing the history of one's own family and relatives.   It is Maggie who remembers her Grandma Dee, who knows her true roots, and who knows the true value of the churn and the quilts--not their monetary or aesthetic value but as representative of her family members who made and used them.  It is Maggie who therefore rightfully deserves the quilts. 

Karen P.L. Hardison eNotes educator| Certified Educator

In "Everyday Use" Dee changes her name and takes up a different style of dress to visually display her heritage and the African roots of her family background. Dee is concerned for her heritage in that she wants it prominently displayed in her life, that's why she declares that family treasures like butter churns and quilts are not objects for everyday use but rather cherished objects of great value that have important history to them.

The social movements of the 1960s that were the outgrowth of such groundbreaking successes as those of Martin Luther King, Jr. spurred a new consciousness among African Americans who wanted to identify themselves with something beyond the past "slave" identifier. They wanted to find and honor their roots before becoming enslaved and dehumanized. Dee's changes and concerns were part of this social awakening seen in Black Power, black pride, Black Nationalism, and the black arts movement among others.

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Everyday Use

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