Dr. Carol A. Martin
Hu 208 Intro to Humanities
February 08, 1999
In the memoir, Colored People, Henry Louis Gates Jr.
talks about what was the untalked about racial rule in
integrated schools. Now that the races had been blended
together there was still the line of race and
gender(Gates p.98) that could not be crossed.
In the story by Langston Hughes, Cora Unashamed, Cora
is a daughter in the only black family in town. She ends up
pregnant by a white boy who drifts in and out of her life.
She is looked down upon by her parents, but is unaffected by
this. To Cora, her baby was a living bridge between two
worlds. (Hughes p.43) Gates and Cora share both
similarities and differences in their hope for a society,
which sees no color. Gates struggled with the fact that his
peer and confidant throughout childhood, Linda, could never
be more than a friend and classmate. He loved her as an
equal, as he knew she loved him. Cora, on the other hand
accepted the fact that Joe, the father of her child, could
not be a part of her life and she did not try to fight it.
Gates and Linda were both taught by society that they
were different. It is not evident to a child that race is
even an issue, it is something that is taught in hush hush
conversations, and slight undertones. It is like a cancer
that grows unnoticed, and then one day just takes over.
This is what happened to Gates and Linda. The fact that
they couldnt progress in their relationship didnt
completely occur to them until they were about eleven years
old, when as Gates puts it The strictures of race has
entered our lives, catching us unawares (Gates p.108).
Cora accepted the fact that there would be no future, even
from the beginning of her relationship with Joe. Of course,
she hadnt expected to marry Joe, or keep him. He was of
that other world, too (Hughes p.43) Gates and Cora both
knew that the wall of racism, especially between genders was
too high to climb and too thick to break down. Gates speaks
for both Coras situation and his own when he says, …the
fact that it was an impossibility for us did not have to be
spoken (Gates p.106).
Both Gates and Cora lived in a time where seeing eye to
eye, and especially beyond skin color was very rare. Gates
talked about how he was scolded in class because he referred
to his mother as she and how it made me feel good, this
white woman talking about my mama like that, in front of the
other kids (Gates p.93). Cora was used to being talked
down about. Being the only black family in town, and her
father being a drunk, Cora was forced to stay in town to
support her family and help with the other eight kids. The
people of Melton, her town, referred to her as a Negress
when they wanted to be polite (Hughes p.40).
Stereotypes and accusations were just two of the
everyday battles that Gates and Cora had to fight. Cora
picked her fights, she figured fighting against the other
world was a losing battle and lived her life the best she
could under the circumstances. Gates, with the help of his
mother learned how to fight back. When his teacher accused
him of stealing her scissors, he got back by receiving
straight As for the rest of the year. In academics, he
achieved astonishing scores as well as awards. By setting
his sights so high and achieving so much, he was able to say
in his own way, Nothing you can say or do will discourage
me, it will only make me work harder and set my sights
Unfortunately, Cora did not have the role models like
Gates did in his parents and brother, Rocky. Cora did not
have great opportunity to fight back. She was one against a
community of many, and if she did, she might lose her job,
the only thing that promised her a decent meal and a stable
way of life. Coras only way of fighting was to keep her
head held high, despite everything that was against her.
She projected an air about her that despite the things that
people did and said and the names they called her. She would
Gates and Cora were two people in an unfortunate time,
where not many choices were given, and going against the way
of society was considered suicide, especially for ones
reputation. Both dealt with racism in their own way, both
in a way that slightly defied societys prescription.
They were both children raised with an uphill struggle ahead
of them. Were when some climbed as hard and as fast as they
could, even though the top was nowhere in sight, others gave
in and toppled to the bottom, reasoning that the harder they
fought, the longer that climb would be.