Personal Narrative Excerpts in Honor of Black History Month

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Personal Narrative Excerpts

in Honor of Black History Month

From Martin Luther King, Jr.’s book, Stride Toward Freedom (as printed in James M. Washington’s book, A Testament of Hope: The Essential Writing and Speeches of Martin Luther King, Jr., p. 420)

I remembered a trip to a downtown shoe store with Father when I was still small. We had sat down in the first empty seats at the front of the store. A young white clerk came up and murmured politely:

“I’ll be happy to wait on you if you’ll just move to those seats in the rear.”

My father answered, “There’s nothing wrong with these seats. We’re quite comfortable here.”

“Sorry,” said the clerk, “but you’ll have to move.”

“We’ll either buy shoes sitting here,” my father retorted, “or we won’t buy shoes at all.” Whereupon he took me by the hand and walked out of the store. This was the first time I had ever seen my father so angry. I still remember walking down the street beside him as he muttered, “I don’t care how long I have to live with this system, I will never accept it.”

And he never has.

From Alice Walker’s book, In Search of Our Mothers’ Gardens, p. 361 (Alice Walker: Award-winning African-American novelist, poet, and short-story-writer. B: 1944 . Still alive.)

It is a bright summer day in 1947. My father, a fat, funny man with beautiful eyes and a subversive wit [-he is tricky and funny-], [he] is trying to decide which of his eight children he will take with him to the country fair…

… I am two and a half years old. I want to go everywhere my daddy goes. I am excited at the prospect of riding in a car. Someone has told me fairs are fun. That there is room in the car for only three of us doesn’t faze me at all. Whirling happily in my [crisp, ironed dress], showing off my [newly-shined] patent-leather shoes and [light purple] socks, tossing my head in a way that makes my ribbons bounce, I stand, hands on hips, before my father. “Take me, Daddy,” I say with assurance; “I’m the prettiest!”

From Barack Obama’s The Audacity of Hope, p. 267

Here Barack Obama is describing a visit to St. Pius in Chicago:

As I wandered down the aisle, some people smiled and waved; others nodded…

as I offered my hand and introduced myself… At one point a young girl, seven or eight, came up to me, her parents standing behind her, and asked me for an autograph; she was studying government in school, she said, and would show it to her class.

I asked her what her name was. She said her name was Cristina and that she

was in the third grade. I told her parents they should be proud of her… I watched Cristina translate my words into Spanish for them…

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