Themes and Meanings

(Literary Essentials: African American Literature)

When he speaks of his desire to be a man, not a “white man’s boy,” Samuel Taylor expresses his desire for equality and dignity, a desire that motivated him and many other African Americans like him to leave the South and to move to the North. Unfortunately, in the North, they often found the same racism and economic injustice that they had expected to leave behind them. This is the subject of All-Bright Court, which focuses on how racial prejudice and economic exploitation destroy people’s dreams and poison their lives.

All-Bright Court itself, which Samuel and Mary Kate find so appealing, is actually a reflection of racism. Beneath the fresh paint are structures in the last stages of deterioration; the buildings are thought to be good enough only for African Americans, and the white workers who once lived in them have been moved into new homes. This is only one example of the often subtle racism that Samuel encounters in the North. The real attitude of northern whites is symbolized by the action of the doctor’s wife for whom Samuel does yardwork during a strike. When he asks for a glass of water, she hesitates, then gives him a drink in an old mayonnaise jar, rather than in a glass.

One satirical segment in All-Bright Court emphasizes how ridiculous racism is. For a brief time, a white family, the Zakrezewskis, live in All-Bright Court, where they make it clear that they consider themselves superior to their African American neighbors. Mikey does not tell his mother about the fascinating,...

(The entire section is 630 words.)