Free «Primary Sources: Race in the City» Essay Sample

David S. and Jackson Kenneth in ‘Empire City: New York Through the Centauries’ is a collection of journals, essays, documents and ephemera that cover topics ranging from national dominance, colonial period and industrial metropolis related to New York as City. The initial part of the collection covers the colonial period accounting for the contrasts that were experienced in the colonial social among the New York’s citizens. The section of the book also mentions the slavery experienced by New Yorkers making most of them to feed on rotten food. The slavery and wrenching experiencing had been caused by the war between mercantilists from New York and the British Army. The other sections of the book covers the conditions witnessed in public schools found in New York. The conditions were presented as being poor in most areas yet there were some areas where the schools were well off. The issue of race comes up in the book as the two authors address the obscure experienced by black citizens living in New York. The period also witnessed the rise of a number of African American who came up with educative literature on racial relations that were being experienced in New York. The same period was also marked by a number of political riots opposing the capitalist model that had been introduced in New York. The collection also mentions the positive developments that took place in New York. The developments were mainly in relation to the social and economic diversity. The period witnessed the introduction of mass media in New York as well as laws enacted to check on the rights of workers.

Langston Hughes’s ‘Dunbar Selected Writings’ mainly addresses the tension in New York that was caused by the cultural and commercial differences in the city. Hughes goes further to describe how the City adjusted to absorb the tension that was mainly caused by diversity. One of the striking issues addressed by Hughes in his writing is the position of Negro students in New York schools. The blacks were mostly discriminated and had to struggle in order to fit in the harsh racial environment in most of the schools. Other issues mentioned in the book that directly related to New York include; military segregation, race riots, migration, entertainment, educational growth and political activism.

‘The King of Harlem’ by Federico Garcia Lorca paints New York as a city that is torn between hate and love. Garcia describes the city as being a manmade city that is most visibility among all cities characterized by both love and hate relationships with its citizens always fighting against greed, criminality, prostitution and greed. The book considers New York as the main figure representing the western phenomenon. New York created an environment that was filled with capitalists’ ethic and was seductive as well as conducive to different people from different backgrounds. Most immigrants regarded the city as the place where all their dreams were destined to come true.

‘Angel Levine’ by Bernard Malamud is mainly centered on the life experiences of a Jewish tailor living in New York. The experiences represented the realistically of New York City in the mid-fifties. Among the issues faced by the tailor was the racial concern as the tailor was discriminated as being a ‘black Jew yet he had angel to boot’ Most of the New York citizens could not believe this. This showed the unusual social ranks and racial irrationality leading to social presuppositions. In addition to the book addressing the issue of racial tension in New York in the twentieth centaury, the book also covers religious accounts and the job positions taken by the minority groups in New York. Religion was spreading rapidly in New York during this period with different religious practices being witnessed through the life of the tailor especially after the death of his wife. The book also helps the readers to understand the kinds of relationships shared by most citizens in New York. The family was the basic unit in the community and was appreciated and respected with friends being additional support of interpersonal relationships.

‘Fifth Avenue, Uptown’ by James Baldwin has put together a number of essays which mainly address the issue of color in New York in particular the positions African Americans who were mainly judged in the basis of their skin color. Baldwin uses descriptive tone, choice of words and writing styles to support the position taken by the book on the subject of race making the readers to properly visualize the same subject. The blacks were discriminated in New York and demanded for equal rights just like the other races. Baldwin states that ‘the Negros demanded to be treated just like other men’. He achieves this by addressing his personal depressing condition that he went through while growing up in the same Fifth Avenue. The fourth avenue was marked by taxi drivers dozing inside their cars, pedestrians walking up and down the midday traffic, beggars filling up the streets and Negro children being seen hanging on windows with hopeless eyes on the windows of their tenement buildings. The picture created by the author was that of desperation because of the poor living standards in New York.

The above sources address the conditions the citizens in New York in the historically period. The picture created by all the sources is that the living conditions in New York were poor as compared to the developments at the same period. Yet today, New York is considered as one of the best places in relation to living conditions though still faced with some of the poor conditions that were experienced in the past. This is an important revelation to historians are they are best suited to trace back the transformation that New York has gone through over the years in a position to appreciate its changing demographics and be able to predict the way New York will look like in some time in future


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