What America Would Be Like Without Blacks
In "What America Would Be LikeWithout Blacks," Ralph Ellison demonstrated how blacks influenced American speech and language, the themes of our American literature, and American ideals of personal freedom and democracy.
White people have been dreaming of an America with no blacks for a very long time. Although the thought is appealing, the idea of cleansing America of blacks is preposterous. The vision of an all white America first appeared in 1713 when a White "native American" suggested that all blacks be set free and sent back to Africa. In 1815, a wealthy merchant, shipbuilder and landowner named Paul Cuffe sailed himself and thirty-eight other blacks to Africa. This lead to the founding of the American Colonization Society. The idea of getting rid of blacks to help the nation's health, and the idea of blacks withdrawing willingly still exists. It exists in the form of "neo-Garveyism."
Though blacks have experienced great inequities, blacks are still major contributors to the "cultural mainstream." Now we can begin to look at what the nation would have been like had Africans never set foot here. American language, whether one want to admit it or not, stems from "the timbre of the African voice and the listening habits of the African ear." The language of blacks, extended from black folklore, was absorbed by the greatest writers of literature in the nineteenth century. Mark Twain made great use of it in Huckleberry Finn. Without blacks, that book would not exist. Blacks were the inspiration of many literary writers such as Faulkner, Stephen Crane and Hemingway. Blacks put a spin on jokes, tall tales and even sports. We add a certain flavor or "soul" to these entitities. The nation's political history would have been affected if it weren't for...