Colored People A Memoir English Literature Essay

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Over the years, a lot of cultural surveys and studies have already been conducted, proving that a lot of people and cultures actually find the African American society inspiring. These studies resulted to further academic ventures that aim at understanding the African American community better. A lot of these experts focused on the particular African American's beliefs and ideals on faith,while other continued to discuss about their cultural and historical heritage. In line with this endeavor, Henry Louis Gates Jr. also participated in an extensive study which resulted to a critically acclaimed book which deals about the lives of African Americans. This book was named, Colored People: A Memoir. This discussion shall aim to provide an overview of what the book was about while analyzing its context. This shall also serve as an insightful response which will emphasize on one of the most vital aspects of the African American community as portrayed in the book, faith.

A lot of writers who delved on historical and cultural topics have earned rightful prestige in the halls of American literature history. Apparently, Henry Louis Gates Jr. is one of them. In his writing career, he achieved numerous praises and positive reception from both readers and critics and got recognized as one of the most respected experts on African-American history and literature. Apart from this, he has been regarded as one of the modern pillars of African-American studies program in Harvard University and as a notable academic achiever in Cambridge University for being the first African American to receive a Phd degree. Biographical accounts show that writing and literature have been significant aspects of his life and that he has already came up with numerous articles, books, essays and reviews on issues and ideals relating to the African-American community. These are only among the many other recognitions he received so far which prove his literary mastery especially under this subject matter.

Colored People is a literary work which serves as Gates' personal account of his life while he was growing up in West Virginia around the time of the 1950s up to the 60s. As what he explains in his discussion, Piedmont us an immigrant working class town, and during his time, life was especially tormenting for the African Americans. Gates professes that the life was so hard the only decent job offered to black men was the local paper mill truck loader occupation (Gates, 1994).

Gates recalls that at the juvenile age of 12, he was already aware and was actually devastated by several societal issues. The major issue which apparently affected him the most was his mother's condition. He retells that his mother suffered a depressive disorder which forced him to take part in a local Baptist church where he desperately pursued restrictive fundamentalism. For several years, he longed for his father's guidance and approval. However, though this aspect of his childhood was most of the time absent, he was determined enough to passionately emerge himself with the power of black American movement during the mid 1960s (Gates, 1994). According to him, his father was a cold person and was very difficult to please; his father also perceived blacks as weak and was always hard on them.

Vital Aspect of the African American Society: Faith

As what is apparent from Colored People, Gates recognized the significant role of the church in the life of Americans during the middle decades of the 20th century. To him, issues that concern segregation, alcoholism, public speech and music are all related. In the African American community, faith was very fundamental as it aided people in seeking explanation and understanding issues such as racism. Just as Gates believed, the sieves of the church provide insight into the issues (Gates, 1994). And in his objective of making the book comprehensible for the layman readers, Gates also employed remarkable literary devices such as paradox, indirection and humor. Though the main message of the book was very inspiring in itself, it could nonetheless be observed that the narration presents a rather boastful and insulting tone. However, though this may appear as a single pitfall, this does not make the book less readable as compared to other works that discuss a similar aspect in the African American culture.

Colored People is a narrative which depicts several experiences by a young man politically, intellectually, emotionally and even sexually. In this work, Gates employs his ingenuity when it comes to writing; and with the inspiration from memorable life incidents like his discover of his mother being a civil rights march leader, he was able to perfectly bring up the issues. He was also able to lay out, with so much with and cleverness, the social and emotional realities from a world which transited from racism. From the realities of being a black American living in a white society, to the realities fighting for the rights of being a black American, Gates was able to lucidly and stirringly captivate the empathy of his readers while creating an accurate account of his life from birth up to his literary ventures after his studies (Gates, 1994).

Gates' manner of writing can often be observed to be very stirring, which most of the time emphasizes of his ventures and dreams while he was growing from a young boy to a man. He was very precise with his personal accounts of his encounters and experiences which added spice and excitement to his relatively long memoir. The narrative style also goes beyond his sufferings and his struggle for his father's attention. And despite the book being just another account of childhood, racism, family and civil rights, there is actually more to its message and inspiration aside from these things. It actually covers a deeper and a more spiritual message which poses more relevant message as compared to these typical subjects.

Fondly and humorously, Colored People retells a tale of what life is like while growing up in a racist society. Gates was able to highlight the resilience of African Americans when it comes to class and personal experiences in such layman language. Gates professed that such issues greatly shapes the African American way of life in significant ways. But most importantly, he focused on how important religion actually is in the objective of somehow alleviating such suffering. Considering his own experiences and ideals, he was able to devise his own perception of life as an African American in the United States â€" full of suffering but nonetheless showered with pride and fulfillment.

Colored People got numerous positive reviews and critical comments since its publication. But despite such recognitions, a lot of people still think Gates do not deserve the kind of attention he has been getting. Some critics claim the the work actually lacks critical inclination like other literary works on the subject of African American society. Furthermore, a lot of critics claim that Gates actually centered on the subject of African American society too much, leaving all the other significant issues about segregation overlooked. According to these critics, Gates became so Afro-centric which made him fail to consider welfare of other non-African Americans. But despite such rants and hateful, in the end what matters is the kind of message Gates' work was able to exude. Aside from his literary prowess, this work actually serves as a proof of how well founded Gates is in terms of spirituality. Apart from the technical literary aspect, it could be said that what is more remarkable is the fact that this work was able to incorporate religion and faith in issues like racism in a way that it serves as an answer and a solution.

Nonetheless, it is incontestable that Colored People was able to address some of the most relevant aspects of culture and history aside from religion and spirituality. Apparently, Gates has showcased effective communication skills which enabled him to make his text understandable to a multitude of readers. Moreover, it contributed to the understanding of the influence of religion in American life. Gates has also comprehensively discussed the issues that involve the ideal of salvation through prayers especially during the most trying moments of his life. For the readers to holistically understand the author's view point, it is indeed important to first have a basic grip of religion or faith since this work is greatly based on it.


Colored People provides an insightful piece of literary work which can be read by anyone due to its simplistic narrative style. It appears more appealing especially for those who are not only influenced but also tracked by the impact of religion on the American culture. In this memoir, Gates has positioned religion in the civil rights era, and thus, in the development of this intellectual insight, he provided the reader with a fascinating and important lesson. In reflecting the African-American faith in a deeper and more extensive context, Gates explored sexuality, socialization, and family which, according to him, are matters that are bound to occur when one comes of age.