Raymond's Run Analysis
by Toni Cade Bambara

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Historical Context

(Short Stories for Students)

The Black Power Movement
When ‘‘Raymond’s Run’’ was published in 1971, the Black Power Movement was having a significant impact among African-American artists and writers. While the Black Power movement, which extended through the decade from 1965 to 1975, grew out of the Civil Rights movement, the Black Power movement opposed integration and demanded economic and political power as well as equality with whites. The movement was fueled by protest against such incidents as the shooting of Civil Rights leader James Meredith in 1966 while he led a protest march across Mississippi. Shortly after, Civil Rights leader Stokely Carmichael initiated the call for Black Power and the first National Conference on Black Power was held in Washington, D.C. in 1966. In the same year, the Black Panther Party was founded in Oakland, California by Bobby Seale and Huey P. Newton, taking a militant stand against police brutality and the appalling conditions of black urban ghettoes, which lacked adequate municipal services and suffered crime rates 35 times higher than white neighborhoods.

African-American communities were also seen as the source of a vibrant culture. By the early 1970s, Black Power had become a widespread demand for black people to control their own destinies through various means: political activism, community control and development, cultural awareness and the development of black studies and ‘‘Black Arts.’’ Pride in both African heritage and in the cultural distinctiveness of black communities in the United States, often summed up in the word ‘‘soul,’’ was reflected in a variety of forms, from ‘‘Afro’’ hairstyles to soul music and soul food. In the arena of sports, heavyweight champion Muhammed Ali embodied the self-confident attitude of black pride. In the arts, black writers saw themselves as both inheritors and creators of a black aesthetic tradition. African-American writers like Toni Cade Bambara played an important part in developing awareness of a distinct African-American culture and folk tradition which emphasized the collective and maintained oral forms of expression.

By the mid-1970s organizations like the Black Panthers, targets for police and FBI surveillance, were decimated—in part because of their insistence upon achieving their goals ‘‘by any means necessary,’’ including armed violence. In 1976, the 4,000 black officials elected represented a larger number than had ever held office, but were still only 0.5% of all American elected officials. In the 1990s, African Americans constitute less than 2% of all elected officials. Economic conditions for African Americans suffered in the 1980s: the recessions in the early 1980s reduced black family income to only 56% of white family income, less than in 1952, and the gap remains the about same in the 1990s. Nevertheless, the cultural heritage of the Black Power movement, black self-awareness and the celebration of an African-American culture and identity has had a significant impact on American culture and politics.

Black Women and the Women’s Movement
The Women’s Movement developed in the late 1960s in North America partly in response to the radicalizing processes of the Civil Rights, Black Power, and antiwar movements. At the same time, many women were radicalized by their realization that they were treated as second-class citizens. Women analyzed their situation and advocated radical change, forming their own local organizations and national networks for women’s equality and women’s rights. Consciousness groups were formed and women’s centers established, concerned about issues such as sexual discrimination and harassment, wife abuse, rape and the right to freedom of choice concerning abortion. In ‘‘Raymond’s Run’’ Bambara challenges conventional female roles through Hazel’s self-assertive and openly competitive behavior. Unlike her classmate Cynthia Proctor, Hazel doesn’t hide her passion for running or her...

(The entire section is 4,245 words.)