“Roll, Jordan, Roll”: A Critique of Slavery and a Story of Hope

The spiritual “Roll, Jordan, Roll” is one of the most well-known of the “sorrow songs”. W.E.B. Du Bois coined the term “sorrow songs” in his 1903 publication, The Souls of Black Folk, as a name for the songs sung by the African-American slaves in the Southern states. Throughout the book, each chapter begins with an excerpt from a work of Western literature and then two bars from an untitled slave song. In the final chapter, aptly titled “The Sorrow Songs”, Du Bois explains why he included the songs: Continue reading ““Roll, Jordan, Roll”: A Critique of Slavery and a Story of Hope”

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The “Dream”: A Critical Concept in Between the World and Me

This was originally a formal paper but has been modified into a blog post.

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Everyone dreams, but one individual’s dream may be another’s nightmare. Ta-Nehisi Coates references a “Dream” with this duality in his 2015 memoir Between the World and Me. The memoir is an extended letter to his adolescent son Samori about growing up black in America today. Coates’s Dream is essentially his notion of race relations in America, but it is not a static idea because it evolves as Coates grows up in the ghetto of Baltimore. The Dream is imperative for Samori to understand because it is the reason for his inherent struggle as a black boy in America. Coates does not protect him from this struggle though, because he believes it will bring him closer to the “meaning of life.” Coates’s Dream is elucidated by the conventional American Dream because the early notion of the Dream was a mirror image of it, but soon became a façade of the racial dynamic in America just as the American Dream was realized to be founded in white privilege. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’ “I Have a Dream” speech complicates Coates’s Dream because King’s dream is optimistic while Coates’s is pessimistic. Although the Dream in Between the World and Me proved to be a dynamic notion of race in contemporary American society that evolves as Coates grows up, he came to realize the racial divisions are not likely to change and that his son must be aware of the inherent struggle he will face, as a black man, if he hopes to live a meaningful life.

Continue reading “The “Dream”: A Critical Concept in Between the World and Me”