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Last Reviewed on June 19, 2019, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 296

The Blacker the Berry is the story of Emma Lou Morgan, an African American girl from Idaho who has extremely dark skin and suffers from prejudice because of it. Her dark skin color is viewed as undesirable by everyone, including other African Americans and her family, who have lighter skin. Her mother tries to help Emma Lou bleach her skin, as she believes it will improve her daughter’s chances of marrying and achieving success in life. However, Emma Lou remains exceptionally dark—blue-black, as they call it. Emma Lou grows up feeling self-conscious and out of place in the community of Boise, Idaho, and she later moves to larger cities in hopes of fitting in.

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Emma Lou attends college in Los Angeles, where there are more African Americans than in Idaho. However, she finds that the ones who are accepted in social groups and leadership positions are light-skinned African Americans, not dark-skinned ones like her. Again, she feels displaced and marginalized because of her skin color. Emma Lou eventually moves to New York, and she faces discrimination throughout her career; she learns that even in Harlem, light-skinned blacks are preferred over dark-skinned blacks. Unable to find suitable employment despite her college degree, she gets a job as a maid.

Emma Lou also faces discrimination in her relationships with men, particularly a man named Alva, whom she falls in love with but who is ashamed to be seen in public with her. After a few failed relationships, Emma Lou moves on and adopts a new attitude. After a lifetime of feeling ashamed of herself, she decides to accept herself She gains the confidence she needs to prove to the world that she believes in herself, as she knows that unless she does, no one else will.


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Last Updated on September 6, 2018, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 932

The Blacker the Berry is divided into five sections. Although they vary to some degree in length and differ greatly as to the length of time that is covered, each of these sections ends with a decision or a revelation on the part of the protagonist, Emma Lou Morgan.

In the first section of The Blacker the Berry, entitled “Emma Lou,” the protagonist, eighteen-year-old Emma Lou Morgan, is shown at her high school graduation in Boise, Idaho, the only black face in a sea of white ones. Aware not only of her difference from her classmates but also, more painfully, of the degree to which she is an outsider in her light-skinned family, Emma Lou is almost too embarrassed to walk up and receive her diploma. Her mother, Jane Lightfoot Morgan, has always let Emma Lou know that because of her black skin, flat nose, and thick lips, she is the family disgrace. Only Emma Lou’s uncle, Joe Lightfoot, holds out some hope for the girl; he assures her that color prejudice is found only in provincial towns like Boise. At the University of Southern California, he promises, Emma Lou will be accepted.

Unfortunately, Uncle Joe is wrong. During her first weeks in Los Angeles, Emma Lou discovers that because of her color, she is excluded not only from the sorority that has been organized by African American girls but also from even the most casual social contacts. The only men who will take her out are the uneducated ones whom another outcast manages to find.

Back home for the summer, Emma Lou begins to see Weldon Taylor, who introduces her to the pleasures of sex, and for the first time in her life, she feels that someone really cares about her. When Weldon has to leave town in order to earn enough money to return to medical school, however, Emma Lou wrongly assumes that she has once again been rejected because of her skin color.

After two more miserable years in Los Angeles, Emma Lou comes to the conclusion that only in a larger black community will she find the...

(The entire section contains 1228 words.)

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