Upon completion of this course, students should be able to:
- Demonstrate critical thinking and rhetorical analysis skills through literature critiques.
- Explain cultural, historical, and philosophical forces that impact American literary texts.
- Examine allusion, figurative language, and other rhetorical devices used in American literature.
- Analyze theme in a variety of American literary contexts.
- Analyze rhetorical elements of American literature in themes related to universal human concerns and other provocative subjects.
- Examine the cultural and philosophical foundations in American literary history.
- Analyze scholarly research in support of a thesis related to American literature.
- Apply library research skills and information literacy through American literature critiques.
American philosopher George Santayana (1863-1952) is credited with a famous quote: “Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.”
Keeping Santayana’s quote in mind, you are asked to write an article critique responding to Columbus’s “Discovery of the New World” letter that is in the required reading section of this unit. Summarize at least two or three main points mentioned in Columbus’s letter (while considering the date, purpose, and intended audience of the letter), and synthesize your summary into an article critique that meets the following criteria:
Analyze how important (or not) Columbus’s letter is to American literature.
Explain cultural, historical, and philosophical forces that impacted reactions to Columbus’s letters.
Discuss whether Columbus Day should remain a federal holiday in the United States or be replaced with Indigenous Peoples’ Day.
Columbus's 'Discovery of the New World' letter
From the inception of its exploration the American soil had become a hinterland of practicing evils norms like racism or discrimination based on colour. In fact, the entire European colony specifically the British colonies were subjected to the racial practices where the white people tried to impose their superior dominance over the aboriginals. In the later half with the advent of the Africans this segregation had been shifted towards the more intense ideas. It started a racial segregation between the white and black. The black Americans were tried to raise their voices in order to get equal treatment and justice but the government tried to suppress those voices sporadically. In this regard, this essay is going to discuss the writings of a born slave American Frederick Douglass and tried to depict a portrait of the situation that the slaves were suffered at that time. Moreover, the essay is also puts focus on the relevance of the article on the present case scenarios prevalent in America. In fact, the purpose is to develop an understanding regarding the impact of the article, written by Douglass on the present human rights struggle in America.
The fight between black and white was not a new phenomenon in the context of America. Rather it had its roots since the exploration of the continent. The southern part of the country was infamous for its practice of slavery for running the plantations and agriculture by cheap African slaves. However, the Declaration of Independence stated a different version. According to the Declaration of Independence, the civil rights and equality had been restored after the victory over the colonial powers. As a matter of fact, the same ideas were envisioned during the French revolution in 1789 in the form of Declaration of Rights of Man and of the Citizen (Jellinek, 2018). As far as both of those declarations were concerned, it can be argued that both of the two ventilated the primary task to ensure freedom and equality of men. It was the period of modern era in the European history where people were started thinking about the individual rights and liberty and refuted the medieval norms of rigorous dominance and suppression.
Based on this platform Frederick Douglass took part in the American Civil War hundred years later. Frederick Douglass was a born slave with the real name as Fredrick Augustus Washington Bailey. He was educated and right from the very beginning of his adulthood, Douglass started protest against the racial segregation. He was resembled with the skill of an orator and started convincing the blacks and the free men about the nefarious discrimination acts prevalent in the American society (Douglass, 2009). He participated in the Civil War with great enthusiasm and was a staunch critique of the evil discriminatory practice. In one of his letter he rightly criticised the White people and wrote to a friend that the rule of the oppressors had come to an end and the light of equality had been casted upon the American society.
Frederick Douglass accurately portrayed the condition of the American blacks at that time by using words like “count the lashes on the slave’s back” or “she travels southward to that Valley of the Shadow of Death” (Douglass, 2009). He also advocated that the time had come to protest against the exploitations of the masters in the entire region. In this context, experience is considered to be an effective to accept the challenge positively. According to Bonilla-Silva (2017) the letters of Frederick Douglass are considered to be so valuable to understand the clear image of the racial practices prevalent in America. In this discussion, it is very important to analyse that Frederick Douglass did not have any trust in the Declaration of Independence. In his vision he felt that despite of having independence, there was no scope for the slaves to flee away or protect their rights.
Impact of Columbus's letter on American literature
This anticipation was further bolstered by the civil rights movement in America during the period of 1960s. After the end of the civil war and abolishment of slavery the disharmony between the blacks and whites was still existed in the American society (Andrews, 2018). The civil rights movement in 1950s and 1960s was followed the same line of Frederick Douglass and raised voice against this malpractice. The purpose of the movement was to facilitate equal opportunity in employment, housing and education. In fact, up to 1960s the black people did not have the right to vote or getting equal access to the public facilities.
In his article, Daniels (2016) argued that the impact of the civil rights movement was far reaching and staged the platform for the further protest against racial discrimination. In the later phase the civil rights movement questioned the role of the judiciary system which failed to safeguard the rights and interests of the black people in America. On the other hand, Hooker (2015) mentioned that it was not only the civil war but the equal contribution of the free folk and the writings of the political leaders who helped to establish the foundation of freedom and equality in the first place. In addition to this, Sandler (2018) advocated that the speeches of Martin Luther King Jr. Had a similar approach like his ancestors who fought the Civil War bravely. From that perspective, the importance and relevance of the letter of Frederick Douglass is highly pertinent. The letter of Frederick Douglass was not only exposed the real picture of the American judiciary system and the inability of the government to protect the rights for all irrespective of their colours but also boosted up the predecessors to achieve success during the civil rights movement of 1960s and provided them moral support in order to gain their rights accordingly.
Therefore, it can be concluded that the letter of Frederick Douglass is highly significant and important as well in order to get a clear picture of the racial segregation and discrimination persisted in the American society after the Declaration of Independence. As a matter of fact, it portrayed the real picture of the crisis that was envisaged in the later half during the human rights and civil rights movement in America during 1960s. At the same time, it is pertinent to understand the role of the judiciary system and the government in order to enact provision for safeguarding the rights of the black Americans. Frederick Douglass’s letters on racism rightly explained the motive and political exploitations by the authority to implement no steps regarding the interests of the black people and subsequently the grievances and an urge to establish their rights as free men also reflected in the writing. From those features, the account is quiet relevant and a literary depiction of the sufferings of the black people of that time.
Racism or condemning an individual based on his or her colour, race or ethnicity was a common phenomenon since the birth of the United States. As a matter of fact, it can be argued that the trend of isolating and discriminating black and white was started since the discovery of America by Christopher Columbus. At the time when Columbus reached the coast of the America and sent out his search parties, he did not mentioned any aboriginal settlements in his diary. However, there are small hamlets and aboriginal Americans who lived near the coasts but they were noted as savage, uncivilised and enslaved. Based on this understanding, the aim of this essay is to understand the process of racism that spread all over Untied States. Moreover, the cultural root of this nefarious mentality that was practised again and again in the history of human civilisation is also incorporated into the discussion.
Cultural, historical, and philosophical forces that impacted reactions to Columbus's letters
The practice of enslaving the blacks was popularly prevalent in the American society the middle phase of the 18th century. Long before the civil war the European elites or the white aristocrats founded the Atlantic Slave Trade as an act of mercantilism (Manning, Zhang & Yi, 2015). Colonialism was at the pinnacle of these practices where the businessmen antagonised that the domestic labour force was unsuitably expensive. As a response to that they were looking for territories to get cheap labours in the form of slave. Africa was the right place for their search and huge numbers of African labourers were deported to the American plantation facilities in the south. Thus the practice of racism started spreading like a cancer into the mind of the white settlers.
In course of time, the black people in America started raising their voices and the northern province of the country begun to raise its voice against the practice of slavery in the south. After the Civil War and the Independence of America, there were still places where the black and the aboriginals were treated as slave or inferior. Despite all the efforts emancipation of the slaves was yet to be achieved. In course of time, with the great leadership of Martin Luther King Jr. A robust protest was organised in the 1960s against the racial discrimination. Many Americans irrespective of their colours joined the movement and raised their voice in support of unity. Several numbers of poets started writing against these racial segregation and discrimination. For an instance, Langton Hughes “I, too” was very symbolic in this context. Hughes dreamt of a unified America where both black and white people shared their meal and doing jobs with equal opportunities. The poem was written in 1925 long before the political movement of Martin Luther King Jr. It cannot be exaggerated by saying that the narration of Hughes was portrayed exactly the same as the black Americans felt at that time.
The poem of Hughes was a reflection of another poem by Walt Whitman, named “I hear America Singing” (Whitman). In his writing Whitman evoked the same cry for a united America. He framed words joyful words like “blithe”, “carols”, “friendly”. According to Manning, Zhang & Yi (2015) the purpose of using such joyful words in Whitman’s writing is to create a better world where everyone is equal in every sphere of life. In his study Henderson (2014) had argued that Whitman tried to portray equality in work. Therefore, he described people with different occupation. Peoples like mechanics, masons, boatmen, shoemaker, woodcutter and even mother, wives and young men were introduced in Whitman’s poem. They all sing songs of joy and peace. It resembled the celebration of life and work. The happiness that makes a peaceful coexistence irrespective of class, colour and race. In this context, it is also important to understand that Whitman did not mention the elite politicians rather he focused more on the common people. Therefore, the poem reflects Whitman’s respect and love for American people in their work who found joy and happiness in everyday life.
Should Columbus Day remain a federal holiday in the US?
On the other hand, while discussing the importance of the unity in the African continent Mudd (2018) suggested that education and cultural assimilation is the mainstay of progress and sustainable development. As a matter of fact, Spencer (2016) also took references from the American literatures developed during the period of racial discrimination. The process of ethnic harmony and peaceful coexistence bestows in the writings and speeches of the leaders and philosophers of that time and those literary accounts are considered to be the cornerstone of the foundation of equality across the world (Hodges, 2018). In addition to this, while discussing the role of American literatures in making a society based on equality Adubra (2009) argued that the American literatures of 20th century are the perfect example of what the world should be. Those writings were perfectly depicted a utopian but right society where people are differentiated by their names not by their colours, ethnicity or religion.
Despite of those efforts to establish equality over the racial discrimination, it can hardly presume that the progress of equality is yet to be achieved. There are several reasons behind this lacuna. According to McCormick (2017) the purpose and motive of the mankind created all those dilemma and nuances. The superiority complex and the dominating attitude are referred as one of the major reasons behind the evil segregation as per the philosophy of George Satayana. In the colonial period those attitudes were exposed quite extensively but till today there are incidents where ethnic clashing and cleansing are occurred in a daily basis (Vogt et al., 2015). The same idea was envisioned in the work of American philosopher George Santayana. As far as his believe is concerned, history or the past plays a great role in this regard. In his words Santayana expressed that people were forgetting their pasts and doing the same mistakes again and again. The greatest example was the Nazi ideology of hatred against the Jews. These kinds of practices are against humanity and the pave the way towards insanity and inhumanity. Furthermore, during the ethnic clashes between Hutu and Tutsi groups in Rwanda or in case of the ethnic cleansing of the Rohingyas are also identified as the perfect example of creating more disharmonies in the peaceful coexistence of mankind (Bonilla-Silva, 2017).
Therefore, it can be concluded that American literatures are considered to be one of the greatest literary works to advocate sustainability and peace by highlighting the abolition of racial practices and must learn from the pat bloodsheds and violence that harmony should be maintained for the sake of humanity. The poetries of that time ventilates not only the atrocities generated by the white Americans but also created a silver lining of dreaming a better society free from any kind of discrimination. In this regard, the poetry of Whitman was quite relevant in creating an imaginary world of peace and happiness.
To: Employees of the organisation
From: The Person who concerns
Subject: Obligation to the discriminatory practices in workplace
Racism and discrimination in America
Existing regulations on workplace anti-discrimination
There are plenty of regulation followed by the US government on the question of discrimination in Workplace. However, the most important act is identified as the Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. The act prohibits employment discrimination based on race, colour, religion sex and national origin. As per the regulation it can be argued that all the employees must have the right to practice their culture and tradition even in workplace. However, the employee must not do anything different that can harm others and the workplace environment. Therefore, the law highlights the provision in case of making conversation in native language with the other employees of same origin, wearing traditional dresses on particular days and can believe in their respective religion within the workplace environment (Civil Rights Act, 2018).
Practice in the organisation
In case of the organisation, the Company resembles the practice of workplace diversity. As a result of that there are several employees having different ethnicity, gender and religious believes. In response to that the Company must implement some policies regarding the protection of the workplace diversity and set some firm action in order to prohibit discriminatory practices inside the Company. Recently, the Company came to know about the unfair treatment on the Native American employee and they felt humiliated in wearing traditional dresses and accessories. It can be a great obstacle to the image and operation of the Company and the Organisation will take necessary actions regarding this. At the same time, it is important for all the employees that the Company’s vision is coupled with the practice of workplace diversity and any kind of violation against this policy cannot be tolerated.
There are some recommendations that the Company can follow in order to retain cultural diversity. The recommendations are as follows,
- Strict punishment should be implemented in order to protect the practice of workplace diversity. In this context, the top management should take more responsibility and monitoring process with the assistance of the HR department (Guillaume, 2017).
- Promoting flexibility is considered to be another important aspect in this regard. It can be argued that the flexible working environment will facilitate an understanding regarding employee morale, well-being and productivity (Bond & Haynes, 2014).
- Communication and openness also plays a pivotal role in practicing better workplace diversity. The responsibility of the leaders and the managers are very essential in this context. It can be argued that the managers will guide the employees to maintain workplace diversity with the help of the communicative guidelines for discipline (Nair & Vohra, 2015).
- Besides this, an induction process is required for the organisation in order to establish the workplace diversity robustly. In the induction process the management should highlight the significance of the workplace diversity and the related government legislation to foster it (Nair & Vohra, 2015).
The story of ‘The minister’s black Veil’ was a literary masterpiece written by Nathaniel Hawthorne based on the gothic literary genre to some extent and imbibed with a pessimistic approach in narratives. The story was started with the role of a young minister of a small Puritan town of Milford. The minister is wearing a veil to cover the face. This made the townsmen uneasy to accept the black veil of the minister. People started thinking about the reason of such practice and it became a rumour that the minister might commit some horrible crimes or suffering with insanity. Nobody dared to ask him the reason behind his veil. Moreover, his girlfriend also left him because of his sceptical behaviour. In his deathbed, the minister revealed that it was an act of atonement due to his past sins but the townsmen should explore their inner self rather than condemning him. He argued that everyone had a dark past and they should be afraid of each other (Hawthorne, 2002).
This is identified as a pessimistic approach developed by the author Nathaniel Hawthorne. In fact, it can be argued that the writing of Hawthorne was enlisted in the genre of anti-transcendentalist approach. As a matter of fact, the parable “The Minister’s Black Veil” is resembled with the allusion of the biblical explanation in a great sense. In this context, the hiding face of the minister with a veil is clearly identifies the differences between men and God as illustrated in Bible (Gale, 2016). The short story is highly linked with the concept of dark romanticism. As far as the dark romanticism is concerned it can be argued that every good men and women drift towards sin and self-destruction. Simultaneously, the story also developed the same paradigm where in the end of the story where the clergymen wanted to see the face of the good man, the Minister but the minister refuted them by saying that the veil must not be unveiled on earth.
Frederick Douglass's participation in the American Civil War
In case of understanding the figurative language used in the Minister’s Black Veil it can be stated that the purpose of using the figurative languages is to enhance the plot and theme of the story. The central theme of the story is related to the secret sin that every human being is possessed but inclines to hide from others. For an instance, in the page 473 “A subtle power was breathe into his worths” (personification). In addition to this, an example of metaphor can be seen in the line “he even raised himself in bed, and there he sat shivering with the arms of death around him” is identified as a metaphor.
Moreover, the story also resembles some rhetoric devices in order to enrich the writing more. For an example, in the sentence, “there was a general bustle, a rustling of the women’s gowns and shuffling of the men’s feet” the use of those type of words serves to feel the readers the rustling sound only and creates a feeling of disgust which was appropriate with the situation (Serrano, 2017). In addition to this, the author Nathaniel Hawthorne uses rhetorical question such as “could Mr Hooper be fearful of her glance that he so easily caught back the veil?”. In this manner Hawthorne tries to shape the mood of the mystery and portrays the character responsive despite of covering with a veil.
Adubra, E. (2009). Keynote address. International Journal of African Renaissance Studies, 4(1), 96-101. Retrieved from https://libraryresources.columbiasouthern.edu/login?url=https://search.ebscohost.com/login.aspx?direc t=true&db=a9h&AN=44032240&site=ehost-live&scope=site
Andrews, K. T. (2018). Freedom is a constant struggle: The Mississippi civil rights movement and its legacy. University of Chicago Press.
Bond, M. A., & Haynes, M. C. (2014). Workplace diversity: A social–ecological framework and policy implications. Social Issues and Policy Review, 8(1), 167-201.
Bonilla-Silva, E. (2017). Racism without racists: Color-blind racism and the persistence of racial inequality in America. Rowman & Littlefield.
Civil Rights Act. (2018). Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. Retrieved from https://www.eeoc.gov/laws/statutes/titlevii.cfm
Daniels, J. (2016). White lies: Race, class, gender and sexuality in white supremacist discourse. Routledge.
Douglass, F. (2009). Narrative of the life of Frederick Douglass, an American slave. Retrieved from https://libraryresources.columbiasouthern.edu/login?url=https://search.ebscohost.com/login.aspx?direc t=true&db=a9h&AN=21212459&site=ehost-live&scope=site (Originally published in 1845)
Gale, C. L. (2016). A Study Guide for Nathaniel Hawthorne's" Minister's Black Veil". Gale, Cengage Learning.
Guillaume, Y. R., Dawson, J. F., Otaye?Ebede, L., Woods, S. A., & West, M. A. (2017). Harnessing demographic differences in organizations: What moderates the effects of workplace diversity?. Journal of Organizational Behavior, 38(2), 276-303.
Hawthorne, N. (2002). The minister’s black veil (short story). Literary Cavalcade, 55(1), 25. Retrieved from https://libraryresources.columbiasouthern.edu/login?url=https://search.ebscohost.com/login.aspx?direc t=true&db=a9h&AN=7252437&site=ehost-live&scope=site I
Henderson, A. L. (2014). Four Women: An Analysis of the Artistry of Black Women in the Black Arts Movement, 1960s-1980s.
Hodges, G. N. (2018). I've Been in the Storm So Long: African American History and the Journey Toward Equality Through the Lens of the DuSable Museum of African American History.
Hooker, J. (2015). “A Black Sister to Massachusetts”: Latin America and the Fugitive Democratic Ethos of Frederick Douglass. American Political Science Review, 109(4), 690-702.
Jellinek, G. (2018). The Declaration of the Rights of Man and of Citizens. BoD–Books on Demand.
Manning, P., Zhang, Y., & Yi, B. (2015). Volume and Direction of the Atlantic Slave Trade, 1650-1870: Estimates by Markov Chain Carlo Analysis. Journal of World-Historical Information, 2(1).
McCormick, J. (2017). George Santayana: A Biography. Routledge.
Mudd, D. (2018). “I Hear America Singing”: The Relationship Between American Religion and Democratic Values in Whitman’s Leaves of Grass. Aisthesis: Honors Student Journal, 9(2), 8-15.
Nair, N., & Vohra, N. (2015). Diversity and inclusion at the workplace: a review of research and perspectives.
Sandler, M. (2018). Frederick Douglass’s Prophecies of Abolition: World Literature and the Black Romantic Man of Letters. European Romantic Review, 29(4), 485-497.
Serrano, C. (2017). I Know You Are, but What Am I? Hawthorne's Projection within The Minister's Black Veil.
Spencer, E. (2016). ‘I hear America singing, the varied carols I hear’: Introduction. American Poetry since 1945, 1.
Vogt, M., Bormann, N. C., Rüegger, S., Cederman, L. E., Hunziker, P., & Girardin, L. (2015). Integrating data on ethnicity, geography, and conflict: The ethnic power relations data set family. Journal of Conflict Resolution, 59(7), 1327-1342.
Whitman, W. (n.d.). I hear America singing. Retrieved from https://www.poets.org/poetsorg/poem/i-hearamerica-singing
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