Last Reviewed on June 19, 2019, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 362
Here are some quotes from Colored People by Henry Louis Gates:
But, of course, the colored world was not so much a neighborhood as a condition of existence. (8)
Growing up in a small town in West Virginia, Gates experiences his world as a person of color as distinct and separated from the world of the whites.
Before 1955, most white people were only shadowy presences in our world, vague figures of power like remote bosses at the mill or tellers at the bank. (11)
Growing up as an African American boy in West Virginia, Gates finds his world is largely segregated, and the figures of power in his town are all white.
But our neighborhoods were clearly demarcated, as if by ropes or turnstiles. "Welcome to the Colored Zone," a large stretched banner could have said. And it felt good in there, like walking around your house in bare feet and underwear, or snoring right out loud on the couch in front of the TV—swaddled by the comforts of home, the warmth of those they love. (12)
Gates's world is segregated, even if the demarcation zone between black and white is invisible. He feels more comfortable among African American people, where he can be himself.
"It's no disgrace to be colored," the black entertainer Bert Williams famously observed early in this century, "but it's awfully inconvenient." (17)
Gates quotes this line because it applies to his childhood, when African Americans could not sit down in restaurants or try on clothes in stores.
"They handpicked those children," Daddy would say. "No dummies, no nappy hair, heads not too kinky, lips not too thick, no disses and no dats." (26)
Gates's father is dismissive of the Civil Rights movement and the Little Rock Nine, whom he believes were handpicked to integrate the schools.
But most important of all, for Piedmont and for me, she did not seem to fear white people. (34)
Gates learns from his mother to be proud and unafraid of whites.
I spent most of my childhood and adolescence messing with my hair. I definitely wanted straight hair. (44)
Gates writes about how African Americans wanted lighter, straighter hair and believed "good" hair had to be straight.
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