How can the treatment of African Americans in the 1930's relate to Of Mice and Men?  Of Mice and Men by John Steinbeck

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mwestwood | College Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

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The situation of Crooks, the stable worker in Of Mice and Men, represents that of the African-American in the 1930s:  Disenfranchised like the white migrant workers, Crooks is further isolated by his color.  African-Americans in the South were subjected to the Jim Crow Laws, laws that dictated that they could never be respected or own anything of their own.  There was little hope for the future for both blacks and the itinerant white workers during the Great Depression.  The "bindle-stiffs" as the white workers were referred to, had no union to protect them since they moved so much; thus, like the African-Americans, they hopped boxcars of trains and moved from place to place in search of what work they could find.

Having sharecropped on farms that were foreclosed by the banks during the Depression, many were left penniless; therefore, they sought work wherever they could find it. The migrants from Oklahoma became known as Oakies, a pejorative term that labeled them as threats to the people already working in Califormia.  This ethnocentric bias of one group against another led to distrust and alienation.  In fact, such intergroup tension brought about discriminatory attitudes towards migrant workers.  This attitude, of course, was not unlike the attitude of many towards the blacks, especially in the Deep South, and is one portrayed with the character of Crooks.

 

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