A Lesson Before Dying.

Essay by anud April 2003

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A Lesson Before Dying

"I have a dream that one day this nation will rise up and live out the true meaning of its creed: 'We hold these truths to be self-evident: that all men are created equal.'"

- Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

Suffering through the horrors of racism, black Americans appear to have no chance of progression in society. As exemplified by the Interactionist viewpoint, "racial, religious, and other cultural differentiation can create social distance, suspicion, and tensions between groups" (Parrillo 235). Generation after generation of being uneducated and treated like animals has left the black community in shambles, and thinking they are not as good as the whites. In the 1940's it was difficult to find a black man who could read and write. The black man's illiteracy caused him to believe he was less civilized than the whites. In Ernest Gaines', A Lesson Before Dying, we are introduced to Jefferson, an uneducated, average black man, unjustly accused of murder and sentenced to death by an all white jury.

Convinced he is an animal, Jefferson is going to be shown by Grant Wiggins, the plantation schoolteacher, that he is in fact a man. Though Grant and Jefferson have vastly different educational backgrounds, their commonality of being black men who have lost hope brings them together in the search for the meaning of their lives. In the 1940's small Cajun town of Bayonne, Louisiana, blacks may have legally been emancipated, but they were still enslaved by the antebellum myth concerning the place of black people in society. Customs established during the years of slavery negated the laws meant to give black people equal rights. "Blacks could not use the same parks, playgrounds, drinking fountains, restrooms, waiting rooms, or railroad cars. They always rode in the back of...