Graduation by Maya Angelou is an excellent representation of the separation between races that took place during much of United States history during the 1900’s.  It shows the strong division between the lifestyles and beliefs of the “whites” and the “blacks”, as well as the power the white people seemed to have over the beliefs and attitudes of the black people who they felt were so below them.  I was appalled while reading this to hear about the condition of the local black high school, described as “having neither lawn, nor hedges, nor tennis court, nor climbing ivy…Rusty hoops on swaying poles represented the permanent recreational equipment” (page 612).  It was an absolute devastation to me to visualize the school and its squalor appearance.

Another prominent theme shown through this piece of writing was the power that the white people held over those they felt were lower than themselves.  The town is getting all ready for graduation and everyone is getting excited and looking forward to the success of their graduates.  At the graduation ceremony they have a special speaker deliver the commencement address, his name is Edward Donleavy.  He begins the speech by mentioning the improvement that will be made to the local “central high school”, meaning the white high school.  He then goes on to mention Lafayette County Training School, and how some of the best black athletes have come from this school, highlighting the differences of the white students who would become scientists and mathematicians.  “The accomplishment was nothing.  The meticulous maps, drawn in three colors of in, learning and spelling decasyllabic words, memorizing the whole of The Rape of Lucrece—it was for nothing.  Donleavy had exposed us.  We were maids and farmers, handymen and washerwomen, and anything higher that we aspired to was farcical and presumptuous” (page 616).

It was amazing to see how easily Donleavy was able to harm the hopes and dreams of the young Maya Angelou through a simple speech in which he pointed out the discriminatory differences between black and white people, and I was absolutely shocked by her immediate loss of pride in the accomplishment of her diploma.  However, the work was summed up by a representation of the spirit of the African American people as they sang a song they called the “Negro national anthem”.  “The tears that slipped down many faces were not wiped away in shame.  We were on top again.  As always, again.  We survived.  The depths had been icy and dark, but now a bright sun spoke to our souls.  I was no longer simply a member of the proud graduation class of 1940; I was a proud member of the wonderful, beautiful Negro race” (page 617).  This quote shows the ability and strength of the African American people to withstand nearly everything thrown at them and come out on top.  They were able to overcome the dreadful bonds of involuntary servitude, and eventually overcome the devastation caused by the constant racism that was accepted and promoted in the United States; a testament to the everlasting statement of Martin Luther King Jr.  “YES WE CAN”.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s