Significant Allusions

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Allusions to American History and Culture: Walker makes use of allusions to American popular culture and history in order to situate the story in place and time as well as give insight into each character’s perspectives.

  • “Everyday Use” is set in the 1960s. In the story, Mama references Johnny Carson, who was a popular comedian and the host of The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson from 1962 to 1992.
  • Because he greets her with “Asalamalakim,” Mama figures that Hakim-a-barber must “belong to those beef-cattle peoples down the road," whom she describes as “always too busy: feeding the cattle, fixing the fences, putting up salt-lick shelters, throwing down hay.” Here, Mama is most likely describing a community belonging to the Nation of Islam, a political and religious group that was founded in Detroit in 1930. The Nation of Islam’s most famous exponent was Malcolm X, who eventually broke ties with the organization. The Nation of Islam’s outspoken political aim is freedom and justice for black Americans. As an organization, the Nation of Islam has a more confrontational and separatist ethos than other groups advocating for civil rights in the United States.

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Teaching Approaches