Your Blues Ain’t Like Mine
Armstrong Todd was a black teenager from Chicago, living with his grandmother in Hopewell, Mississippi, when he inadvertently “insulted” a young white mother, Lily Cox, by speaking French. In retaliation, Lily’s husband, Floyd, and others murder Armstrong. The killers are astonished when they are arrested and brought to trial. Although they are acquitted, their lives are ruined.
Campbell contrasts the lives of whites and blacks. Blacks flee the South for a better life, start businesses, and keep their children in school. Whites sink into the mire, turning to crime and drugs, refusing to adapt to the changes taking place.
After Armstrong’s death, his mother, Delotha, desperately replaces him with another son. She reunites with Wydell, Armstrong’s father, and they have two daughters and a son. She starts a business, and they prosper for more than twenty years.
But Delotha is unable to accept Armstrong’s death. Consequently, she spoils their son, W. T., calls him Armstrong, and is obsessed with giving him all that she believes she denied her murdered son. Her husband Wydell is ignored and alienated, causing dissolution of the marriage and his descent into alcoholism.
W. T. joins a gang and experiments with drugs. Delotha panics when she finds a gun in his room. Realizing that the situation is out of control, she goes to her cousin Lionel and his wife for help. They find Wydell and tell him to help his son. Wydell catches W. T. and takes him back to Hopewell.
The story is excellent but ultimately bittersweet. Campbell does a wonderful job of portraying the lives of poor blacks and whites. The contrasts between their lives show the depth of the abyss separating them. They try to better their lives but are continually beaten down by circumstances.
Campbell, Bebe Moore. “Growing Up Black.” Seventeen 49 (December, 1990): 102-105. In this article, Campbell interweaves interviews with three young black women with information about what it is like to grow up black in the United States in the 1990’s. She discusses societal stereotypes and bigotry. The article is an illuminating look at how young black women see themselves within society.
Campbell, Bebe Moore. “I Hope I Can Teach a Little Bit: An Interview with Bebe Moore Campbell.” Southwest Review 81 (Spring, 1996): 195-213....
(The entire section is 987 words.)