Friday, September 25, 2015

Beating Black Boys in African American Literature

African American writers, especially the men, have done considerable work documenting incidents of black boys being beat by African Americans in their works. What follows is a partial list of works.

The Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass (1845) by Frederick Douglass -- Douglass describes receiving beatings from Edward Covey: "I lived with Mr. Covey one year. During the first six months, of that year, scarce a week passed without his whipping me. I was seldom free from a sore back. My awkwardness was almost always his excuse for whipping me."

Black Boy (1945) by Richard Wright -- Throughout his autobiography, he charts the violence that he faced as a black boy growing up in the South. One of the most notable scenes occurs at the beginning when the young Richard sets first to curtains in the house. His mother beats him: "I was lashed so hard and long that I lost consciousness."

Invisible Man (1952) by Ralph Ellison -- In the famous "Battle Royal" scene of Ellison's novel, a group of black boys, including the unnamed narrator, are forced to fight each other blind-folded for the entertainment of whites.

• "The Whipping" by Robert Hayden -- In the poem, the speaker describes watching a woman whipping a young boy. In the process of watching, the speaker recalls moments in his youth when he was whipped.
    [Related: Covering Robert Hayden's "The Whipping" with young black men]

The White Boy Shuffle (1996) by Paul Beatty -- The narrator of Beatty's novel mentions being beaten up as he tries to adapt to a new neighborhood.

The Boondocks (comic strip and cartoon) by Aaron McGruder -- Several scenes from the comic strip and cartoon show Riley, the younger of the two children, receiving physical punishment.

• "leadbelly's lessons" from Leadbelly (2005) by Tyehimba Jess -- A persona poem, a young Huddie "Leadbelly" Ledbetter receives the threat of violence. A Mr. Haney, who owned a store and would have Leadbelly play his guitar. Mr. Haney would become drunk and would slur "nigger, someday i'm gonna kill you."

The Beautiful Struggle (2008) by Ta-Nehisi Coates -- Coates describes young boys assaulted in his neighborhood. He also describes receiving a beating from his father.

• "Battle Royal" from The Big Smoke (2013) by Adrian Matejka -- A persona poem in the voice of Jack Johnson, a young Johnson describes participating in a "battle royal" where young black men and boys fought each other blindfolded: "When the bell rang, / it seemed like I got hit from eight / directions."

Between the World and Me (2015) by Ta-Nehisi Coates -- Coates mentions various instances of violence against black boys throughout his book. He regularly mentions harm to "the black body."

Bad man poetry

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