Why does Bambara chose to write this story in AAVE?

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bmadnick eNotes educator | Certified Educator

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The Black Aesthetic Movement, a period of artistic and literary development among African Americans in  the 1960s, was the first major African-American movement since the Harlem Renaissance. Literature of the movement was written many times in AAVE (African American Vernacular English) to depict the tension, awareness, and the relevance of African history and culture to African Americans.

In AAVE, all of the characters speak with a different inflection, leaving off the last "g" in words like "pointing" or leaving words out of sentences, such as "she not even related by marriage" or "white people crazy". This realistically describes the language in Sylvia's community.  By showing this realistic way of talking, it adds to the author's focus on issues of real concern. Their talk demonstrates the racial tension they feel every day.

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Toni Bambara writes her short story, The Lesson, in African American Vernacular English (AAVE) to provide cultural truth to the story of young Sylvia, who is growing up in a segregated and working-class black neighborhood. The novel also de-prioritizes a white audience as the novel is written by a black person in a specific black dialect that is relevant to other black folks. This de-prioritizing of a white audience was certainly a powerful part of the black consciousness movement in which art, culture, and literature celebrated being created by black people for black people. Bambara does not hesitate to create a story that is relatable to black folks who use AAVE as well as those who deal with the realities of economic and racial oppression.

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