Most of Fences is set in the 1950s. There had been some progress made on race relations by this time, such as the integration of pro sports teams. However, on a whole, America had a really long way to go. Slavery has been gone from America for over seventy years, but its shadow still presses down on the country. All the characters in the play are African American, and they must deal with racism everyday. The South is still officially segregated and much of the North is unofficially. Keep in mind that the play takes place before the Civil Rights Movement of the 1960s. Fences shows what it was like in the decade before the movement caused such radical change in America. Some of the characters seem to sense that progress is in the air, while others are still trapped in America's troubled past.
Fences shows the way in which racial discrimination can place strain on African-American families.
Troy Maxson refuses to see that race relations have gotten better since he was young.