How is Jefferson's life and death a product of racism practiced in the first half of the 20th century?

Essay by JinstarHigh School, 12th gradeA, August 2004

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During the first half of the 20th Century, racism infiltrated and segregated the community's social and legal infrastructure. Racial division is portrayed in the novel, reflecting upon Jefferson's life, a life of inequality, inferiority and poverty. His sentencing, or death, further exemplifies the racial superiority of whites over blacks in the South. Thus Jefferson's life is without a doubt a product of racial prejudice practiced in the 20th Century American South.

The harsh, underprivileged and difficult life of blacks in the South is portrayed all throughout the novel. Grant's school, in which Jefferson had studied, was completely inadequate for teaching or learning. Firstly, it was understaffed, as Grant requires the elder students to lecture the younger students, and often leaving Irene Cole in charge of the class in his absence. Secondly, the financial status of the school was without doubt, unequal to the white schools. As Grant informs the unsympathetic superintendent of the lack of required facilities, he attempts to justify his lack of support by introducing equality, but in reality, equality is far from reality.

Such a school that Jefferson attended partly explains his lack of both social and academic education that has lead him to the situation he is in.

Jefferson is seen to be an underprivileged individual who has had a deprived childhood, leaving him barely literate as a result of racism. Nothing in Jefferson's upbringing, or in his treatment by the whites for whom he began work at the age of six, has led Jefferson to believe he was good for anything but menial labor. He would have been brainwashed to believe that he was sub-human. that he is inferior to anyone with lighter skin and he grows to accept it, as he accepts in prison that he is a hog, for a while.