“The Color Purple” As It Relates To The Movements Of The 1980’s
Alice Walker’s novel, “The Color Purple” is a prime example of the combination of several very visible movements that are as relevant today as they were fifteen years ago when the novel was published. The first movement involves a rise in African-American literature. This is not to say simply literature written by African-Americans, but mainstream literature that examines the individual lives of African-Americans. The second movement is women’s literature. Again, this is not simply literature written by women, but a close up view of the hardships women must endure. The other movements involve a myriad of struggles against discrimination, struggles for equality among women, African-Americans, and minorities everywhere.
African-American women had only recently become visible members of the mainstream literary world. Zora Neale Hurston, Maya Angelou, and a handful of others along with Alice Walker paved the way for African-American women in this area. Their works show the hardships of women and African-Americans in a predominantly modern-era setting. They focus in on key issues for blacks such as equality in social and employment situations; issues for women, such as relationships, abuse, and equality; and a combination of the two, bringing out the worst hardships present in both.
The novel was published in 1982, the 80’s represent a very volatile time in America for both African-Americans and women.
... African Americans had civil rights. This all began to change in 1800’s when people began to fight for equality. The Women’s Rights Movement ... active in the abolitionist movement became interested in women’s rights as well; women working to secure freedom for African Americans began to see similarities ...
Most of the key ideological battles of the era were fought in the United States Supreme Court.
In 1978 the case of The Regents Of The University Of California versus Bakke was taken to the U. S. Supreme Court. The case was over the university’s use of “quotas” for the admission of students from certain minority groups. The Supreme Court ruled that the use of quotas in such a way that reverse discrimination is created was unconstitutional. However, they stated that the “aggressive recruiting” of minority students was within the bounds of the Constitution 163).
Although it occurred twelve years before the publishing of “The Color Purple,” the case of Brandenburg versus Ohio was important to African-Americans because the Supreme Court used the Fourteenth Amendment’s “Due Process” clause to grant the Ku Klux Klan the right to demonstrate in any public area and openly advocate racist ideals. These cases represent attempts at achieving equality for African-American’s and putting an end to mindless racism.
For women during the time, the question was of personal freedom. In the 1973 case of Roe versus Wade, a woman’s right to choose whether or not to have an abortion was placed on the table. The Court ruled that a woman does indeed have such a right (Woll 144).
Sixteen years after Roe versus Wade, and seven years after “The Color Purple” was published, a more conservative, Reagan-appointed Supreme Court heard a related case, Webster versus Reproductive Health Services Of Missouri. This Court ruled that, while a woman retains her right to choose abortion, the abortion may not be funded by federal money, and a federal employee may not perform the abortion (Woll 154).
On May 6, 1982 Los Angeles Police Chief Daryl Gates revealed the extent to which racist feelings existed in the United States and the violent outcome of such feelings when he announced that the reason so many African-Americans have died from L. A. police “choke holds” is that black people’s “veins and arteries do not open up as fast as they do in normal people.” (The 80s Server)
Something had to be done.
The United States had it’s chance. An Amendment to the United States Constitution had been proposed that would require equal rights for all people, regardless of race, gender, religion, or opinions. This “Equal Rights Amendment” seemed to be the redemption people had long been looking for. On June 30, 1982 that the Equal Rights Amendment expired because only 35 out of the 38 required states had ratified it. This was a terrible blow to the spirit of equality. Nothing had changed (The 80s Server).
... governments imposing different oppressive ideals on African women by means of exploitation. The Europeans ... was also perceived as raw, uncivilized people whom they could exploit as well as ... women of the tribe would not even be considered as arguable or an issue at all.Duties that in American ... African females would be type-cast from birth and instructed in manners of learning subservience, as is the case ...
These social movements hold as much weight today as they did in the time the novel was written. It is summed up in the article “The Addition of African Authors to the Literary Canon.” The author says, “Exposing Non-African readers to a different culture makes people less insular and less prejudiced against other races. For example in the average American high school the students read a great deal of American literature and some European literature but little or no Asian, Hispanic or African literature. Only the students who continue taking literature courses in college encounter literature of other peoples- and even then not a great deal of it. This provinciality only increases the already prevalent and dangerous notion that Europe and America have a finer culture and that their people are more civilized and intelligent. People must realize that other races also have a rich history and culture. In the west some people have a superiority complex and in Africa and Asia etc some have an inferiority complex.” (Jafri)
I think this speaks volumes about the thrust of the entire movement of writers from all cultural backgrounds. Only from the exposure to diverse works can we expect to truly have an understanding of the global setting our world is becoming.
Women from around the world read “The Color Purple” and they relate. They empathize with the victims of abusive men, they grieve the martyrs of a society which hardly recognized them as human beings. On the other hand, men from around the world read “The Color Purple” and they learn, they understand, they sympathize. They see what women have gone through. They understand the hardships they’ve endured. They appreciate the fact that one day the tables may be turned.
African-Americans read “The Color Purple” and are is proud of how far their people have come despite seemingly insurmountable odds. They frown on the past but look on to the future. They understands that it is imperative to remain strong, less history should repeat itself.
... every hue or shade of blackness within the African-American community. In “The Color Complex” by Midge Wilson, Wilson addresses ... Nov 2009 . Wilson, Midge, Russell Kathy. The Color Complex: The Politics of Skin Color Among African Americans. New York: Harcourt Publishers, 1992. ... because of what slavery has embedded in the minds of African-Americans. According to wikipedia. com, Colorism is defined as ...
White men and women read “The Color Purple” and admire the battle the African-Americans have fought. They acknowledge that the struggle for equality has not ended and they must be a part of securing the fundamental right of all people to have an equal shot at success.
This is the essence of “The Color Purple.” This is what Alice Walker would want the readers of her books to come away with.
To conclude, Alice Walker’s “The Color Purple” exemplifies emerging movements of literary work which reflects the struggles of African-Americans, women, and oppressed minorities in general as they fight for what others consider to be basic human rights. She shows that her people have come a long way and will continue to progress, even in the face of tremendous adversity.