The Color of Water: Historical Significance

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The Color of Water: Historical Significance

In Oakland, California in 1966 the Black Panther Party was founded. The Black Panthers were an organization that practiced self-defense of minorities, and were against the U.S government. The party was the first group in U.S history to fight for equal rights for everyone. The Black Panthers were highly influenced by Malcom X and even started their own newspaper The Black Panther. They often did marches, and with all the hype circling the panthers, new members formed all over the states. Although Ruth thought everyone should have equal rights and that judging by race or religion was wrong, she never wanted to join any revolution groups or parties. "A Black Panther? Next to Mommy? It was my worst nightmare come true. I had no idea who the Panthers truly were. I had swallowed the media image completely." (McBride 36) Ruth was practically a target for the Black Panthers and James knew this. The Panthers were so set on reaching their goals they sometimes went to violence and killed a number of white people. James knew his mother had light skin and was afraid that the Black Panthers would hurt her.

The Color of Water: Historical Significance

On August 23, 1923 Ruth's family immagrated to the United States of America. Ruth wrote "He came here under the sponsorship of my mother's eldest sister Laurie and her husband, Paul Schiffman. You couldn't just walk into America. You had to have a sponsor, someone who would say"I'll vouch for this person." He came first and after a few months sent for his family- me, Mameh,and my older brother, Sam. I was two years old and Sam was four when we arrived, so I don't remeber anything about out long, perilous journey to America other than what I've seen in the movies."(McBride 15) Ruth goes on to say they arrived on a steamer called the Austergeist and she kept her paper on her person for twenty years because she was afraid 'they' were going to kick her out. Ruth's experience and journey to the U.S. was very similar to many other immagrants in the 1920s. Over 2 million Jews immagrated to America between 1880 and 1920 to escape religous persecution in eastern Europe. In 1917 congress passed a legeslation which made any person over the age of sixteen going into America pass a literacy test. This act made it hard for many people to get into America.

The Great Depression and World War II effected almost all people who lived in the 1930s and 1940s including Ruth. Many people all around the world but espically in America sufferd greatly from the Great Depression. Even though Ruth and her family were not effected directly, Ruth saw the results all around her. "This was the thirties, the depression, and folks, were poor and they used guns and fishing rods to survive. If you got sick, God help you because you just died Tuberculosis and double pneumonia were raging in those days, and Mameh had a great fear one of her kids would catch that, because in Europe one of her brothers died in a flu epidemic." (McBride 60) Only half way through the Great Depression 13 to 15 million Americans were unemployed. When the depression finally did end because production of bullets and other items needed for war supplied jobs for many but World War II started. The war effected Ruth many years after it ended when she calls her aunt to get help from the family and learns her brother Sam got killed in World War II. "He joined the army and got killed in World War II, my brother Sam. I didn't find out what happened to him till long after the fact, when your daddy died in 1957. I had seven kids and was pregnant with you and I called one of my aunts to ask for help and she said, "Your brother died in the war." I asked her what happened, and she said, "Stay out of our lives. You've been out. Stay out." And she hung up on me, so there was nothing I could do for Sam nut pray for him."(McBride 63) Ruth was effected by the war after it ended but millions were effect much sooner. World War II was the deadliest war including more than 30 countries and ending with more than 50 million military and civilan deaths. Almost everyone living during this war knew someone who died because of World War II.

The KuKluxKlan or the KKK is a white supremacist group that denounces immigrants, Jews, Catholics, and blacks. The KKK was founded in 1866 and was in nearly every southern state. The KKK was most active in 1960 during the civil rights movement, some of the things that the KKK did was burn black institutions, hang people, and attack in groups at night. Ruth and her family never had direct contact with the KKK but they still affected their way of of life. "That was the Ku Klux Klan riding through, I didn't know the Ku Klux Klan from Craker Jacks, but our black customers slipped out and dashed into their homes as soon as they caught sight of them. They kept out of sight and low key, very low key when the Klan showed up."(McBride 58) Ruth and her first boyfriend Peter gave no attention to race or anything of that sort but when Ruth told him that she was pregnant his first responce was that he was going to be hung. Both Peter and Ruth knew that back then the Klan waited for the slightest reason to come after you because the law was definitley not on their side.

The KuKluxKlan

The Black Panthers

Immigration to the U.S.

Soldiers fight during World War II

The Great Depression and World War II

The legislation of the Civil RIghts passing was the most progressive and forward- thinking acts of the 1960s. This legislation made sure people were not segragated, or discriminated against in public or the work place based on their race, religion, or gender. For many Americans this was the first step to ending rascism in the U.S. James talks about how he was discriminated against because he was black and how hard it was to grow up as an African American boy in the 1960s. His mother and father wanted James and his siblings to get the best education and oppurtunities they could but they did not want them to protest the unjustices in America before and after the Civil Rights Act was passed. "Kind, gentle, Sunday school children who had been taught to say proudly, "I am a Negro," and recite the deeds of Jackie Robinson and Paul Robeson now turned to Malcom X and H. Rap Brown and Martin Luther King for inspriation. Mommy was the wrong color for black pride and black power, which nearly rent my house in two." After this act was passed many African Americans saw equality and the ending of unjustices against race in this country. In James' home they would talk about equal rights and act out because they wanted what was just; Ruth did not want her children to get in trouble because they were protesting she wanted them to study and become sucessful. What Ruth did for her children was in their best interests and well being. Ruth was not the only one that worried about her family because of their race, James writes serveral times about being worried about his mother because she was a white women with several black children always with her. James was scared that both white and black groups would try to take her and kill her. The Civil Rights legislation passing was a wonderful thing to happen to the United Stated and to James and his family.

The Civil Rights Act

Lydon B. Johnson and Martin Luther King Jr. shake hands after the passing of the Civil Rights Act.

People Immigrate to America on a Steam Ship

The Black Panthers showing off their uniforms and weapons.

The Ku Klux Klan performing one of their many rituals.


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