Song of Solomon
Visions of America Quotes
How we cite our quotes:
"Your father was a slave?"
"What kind of foolish question is that? Course he was. Who hadn’t been in 1869? They all had to register. Free and not free. Free and used-to-be-slaves. Papa was in his teens and went to sign up, but the man behind the desk was drunk. He asked Papa where he was born. Papa said Macon. Then he asked him who owned him. Papa said, ‘I’m free.’ Well, the Yankee wrote it all down, but in the wrong spaces." (1.2.53)
While in American folklore and mythology, the Yankees are often portrayed as "good" (and the Confederates as "enemy"), this story complicates the mythology. In a process that is hugely meaningful and significant and connected with the rendering of inalienable rights to those who used to be slaves, we see a Yankee soldier is dismissive of the process (through his drunkenness). We also wonder why black Americans who were not "used-to-be-slaves" had to register. What was the purpose of this registration? Such dismissive, disrespectful behavior, results in the misnaming of a human. The flippancy of the Yankee soldier shows us a side of American history that is not told.
"And you not going to have no ship under your command to sail on, no train to run, and you can join the 332nd if you want to and shoot down a thousand German planes all by yourself and land in Hitler’s backyard and whip him with your own hands, but you never going to have four stars on your shirt front, or even three." (1.3.60)
America’s hypocrisy is vividly parsed out by Railroad Tommy. Black Americans serve in battle to protect their country. When they return, no acts of bravery are recognized or honored by this country for which they risked their lives. Guitar tells us later on of war veterans who were not only ignored by American society upon returning from war, but were blinded and lynched by fellow citizens.
A young Negro boy had been found stomped to death in Sunflower County, Mississippi. There were no questions about who stomped him – his murderers has boasted freely – and there were no questions about the motive. The boy had whistled at some white woman, refused to deny he had slept with others, and was a Northerner visiting the South. His name was Till. (1.3.80)
Though nearly a century after Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation, black Americans do not have the same rights as white Americans. White people can murder a young black man in the South without being punished.