Document Type: Research Paper
Assistant Professor Azarbaijan University of Tarbiat Moallem, Tabriz
Richard Wright’s introductory essay to his collection of short stories Uncle Tom's Children describes hidden forms of resistance against Jim Crowism and Uncle Tomism. The essay entitled The Ethics of Living Jim Crow: An Autobiographical Sketch relates Wright’s daily confrontations with Jim Crowism with a particular emphasis on his evasive actions, and his covert activities, such as silence, playing the role of the Monkey trickster in the library, lying consistently to whites if this act did not question his life and “sly civility,” to fight the humiliation imposed by Jim Crow laws and customs back. In the short stories, however, he focuses on more open forms of defying Jim Crowism, especially the resort to physical violence. In all the stories of the collection of Uncle Tom’s Children and in its introductory essay, whites are the originators of the violence; however, blacks are not always portrayed as entirely innocent. The essay is divided into nine “lessons”. For the purpose of this paper, I limit my study of the introductory essay to four of Wright’s so called Jim Crow “lessons,” selecting two examples from the beginning of the essay and two examples from the end to show what Wright meant by “covert tactics” and how he used them in his day-to-day life. Towards the end of the essay, I conclude, Wright increases his attacks on Uncle Tomism either by criticizing the submissive reactions of his family and black folks or by refusing to be meek and loyal to whites. When he was seriously threatened, though, he had no choice but to play the role of an Uncle Tom.