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Hiedo
1


Matt Hiedo

Ms. Thomas

American Literature: Period 4

3 March 2012







Help Story

Maids were amongst the likes of slaves in the 1950’s. Racial tensions were high and
discrimination was extreme. This is depicted in the novel
The Help

by Kathryn Stockett. Stockett
describes the lives of African Americans during the 1950’s and 1960’s. There were many racist
acts toward
African Americans

especially towards Minny and Aibileen
,

two black women
working as maids in the novel. The story takes

place in Jackson Mississippi where a young white
woman named Skeeter lived

in

for most her life. Skeeter fought for Civil Rights secretly. She
helped the maids by trying to publish a book about their lives as maids and how they are treated.
This book is a

great illustration of how African Americans lived back in the 1960’s.

During the 1950's and 1960's African Americans never seem to be equal with the white
society due to the color of their skin, and their different personalities. Blacks have been
discrim
inated against for generations and separated from whites by law. Segregation has
oppressed blacks for years. For example
,

blacks had to us separate
public bathrooms

from the
whites
. There were water fountains for black and only colored schools. There were
laws
prohibiting blacks from having certain rights which lead to Civil Rights Movements
,

consequently, cause

violence and chaos. African Americans are th
reatened by groups if they did
not

follow the law or rules. In the book
The Help

by Kathryn Stockett, s
he shows how racism
and discrimination destroys the chance to achieve the American dream for African American
s
.

Hiedo
2


African Americans have been segregated for generations since 1869. From the time of
slavery, Blacks have been put to work
;

and

when they
were f
inally free,

they felt discriminated
for their personality and color. Dealing with threats and segregation
,

the African American
society never seemed to change. In accordance to the article School Segregation, the idea of
separating African Americans from
established white communities was not a concrete law
.
However it was preferred

by those in the North who were "constrained by custom and racism
from sending their children to white schools" (School Segregation). Due to such traditional
influences, African
Americans had no choice but to live in peace by agreeing
to settle in areas
designated for the black population. Allowing

black commun
ities to vote

was a
n

improvement in
the lives of all African Americans during the 19th century. The passage of the Fourtee
nth
Amendment and Fifteenth Amendment made African Americans citizens and recognized that
blac
k men had the right to vote. However,

a
backlash from white Southerners

who worked
diligently to intimidate blacks with threats of violence and undermine any lega
l gains blacks
made during this period"(African Americans in U.S. history).


A Group like the Ku Klux Klan
(KKK)
worked deliberately to make sure only a limited number
of African Americans was

allowed to express their rights.


The group grew rapidly throug
hout the years and over four
million members arise
to
making African American li
ves more difficult and threatened
. "The
different KKK organizations that exist today have in common a belief in the inequality and
separate interests of races and a desire to p
romote what they see as the interests of the white
race"(
Civil Rights Movement
). The KKK use methods of hate and violence to alert all types of
minorities. During the 1950's and 1960's
,

these groups held Civil Right Movements and African
Americans from bei
ng able to live a peaceful life. In the novel
The Help
, by Kathryn Stockett
describes the lives of African Americans during the 19th century and the things they went though
Hiedo
3


to fight

for their rights. Stockett shows how white characters in the book think th
ere superior,
smarter and over all better then African Americans
.


In the book
,

The Help
,

a white woman named Hilly Holbrook tries passing a law
allowing every white home in Jackson Mississippi to have an extra bathroom for the
colored men
and women workin
g for

them. Hilly is undertaking this because she assumes colored people are
revolting and that if they use their perso
nal bathrooms they could spread

disease
s
. Hilly shows
her distaste with blacks by saying "All these houses they're building without
maid's quarters? It's
just plain dangerous. Everybody knows they carry different kinds of diseases then we do"

(Stockett 10). What the characters agreed on was a disrespectful act towards black people.


They
assume that

because they are black they

carry di
seases that are harmful to whites. Hilly is selfish
and conspicuous towards the blacks. Therefore, because of her analogy she is protesting to
approve this law in the state without
showing any
proves of them carrying harm
ful diseases.
White people do not

w
ant anything to do with black people neither "no colored barber shall serve
as a barber to white women or girls" (Stockett 202). While in the library
,

Skeeter picks up a Jim
Crow Law book and d
iscover a law white people do not

think that blacks are as good

as whit
e
and for that reason they do not

want to improve their business by buying a haircut. Throughout
Skeeters research there was another thing she discovered "Books shall not be interchangeable
between the white and colored schools, but shall continue
to be used by the race first using them"
(Stockett 202
). This shows how little white people think

of black people. They think that they
were too stupid to learn and that white people were smar
ter and more superior then those,

so they
should be the ones all
owed
reading and learning
.

In the book
The Help
,

Stockett desc
ribes how
the white society

destroys

the Americ
an dream of African Americans through

racism and
discrimination.

Hiedo
4


In the 1950's and throughout the 1960's
,

the modern Civil Rights Movement was a t
ime
period where social activism aimed to achieve a social economic and political equality for
African Americans. Aggressive nonviolent bus boycotts are demonstration
s of the power of the
community

by organizing the role of people in the fight for freedom
that was sparked by a
famous African American named Rosa Parks. "Rosa Parks's refusal to give up her seat for a
white passenger, the bus boycott engaged all of Montgomery's African American community in
a nonviolent, mass protest of Jim Crow segregation th
at spanned 381 days, financially crippling
the Montgomery City Lines"(Cuthbert
-
Kerr). Rosa Parks, sometimes called the mother of Civil
Rights Movement
,

was a great human being because of her bravery for not allowing a white man
to take her set. The act of
her resistance lit up
boycotts which also lead

to other boycotting
tactics
,

for example sit
-
in.


Nonviolent tactics
,

like sit
-
in
,

were
commonly used. They started by

student in North Carolina in a white segregated lunch counter. "Sit
-
ins established many o
f the
philosophical positions and tactics that would underscore the moment. Many activists who would
go on to play leading roles in the civil rights moment were first involved in sit
-
ins"(Cuthbert
-
Kerr).

Groups used this method anywhere in a legal matter a
llowing African Americans to fight
for their rights. The sit
-
in was

used repetitively during the 1950's to challenge segregation. In
Woolworth's Carolina, four students demons
trated this method precisely. "H
aving made
purchases in the store, the four


sat
at the lunch counter and asked for service. When they
refused, they remained at the lunch counter until the store closed"(Cuthbert
-
Kerr). Local protest
had pervious sit
-
ins making connection with other local movements more sit
-
ins participates
gathered. Wi
th a network of young activist from colleges, churches, and other civil right groups
of color in the south the four
connected with a Floyd McKissick,

a powerful youth councilor
leader. By the end of the first week of protesting
,

over 400 sit
-
in students we
re engaged in the
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5


Greensboro. At this moment white mobs and threats were joining to harass the colored
protesters. At this moment the organized members of the groups were harmed by whites
,

and
officers of the state were accusing the colored protesters of t
respassing and began arresting them.
The protests gave African Americans a choice to fight for their rights without being
discriminated against the sit
-
in method improved fierily.

In
The Help
, by Kathryn Stockett describes the everyday life of an African A
merican and
the discrimination they go through on a daily base. In the book
,

Minny and Abileen were riding
the bus with other colored passengers as the bus driver turned

to next corner of the street and

stopped "colored people off, last stop for you,' he h
oller in the rearview. 'White people lemme
know where y'all need to get to. I'll get you as close as I can" (Stockett 227).


The colored
passengers were not

allowed to go further because they have reached their
maximum distance the
can go in the bus
. For t
he White
passengers not only they were allowed
to maintain more of the
bus space but were
also
allowed to travel at any locations

they want
. After the bus situation
,

throughout the book Minny gets beaten by her husband, "Them doctors ain't gone work on no
colored person, Miss Celia" (Stockett 359). African Americans are better off not going to the
doctors because of the doctor’s racial dislike o
f blacks. This is why t
hey will not

help Minny
even if she decided to go to one. This demonstrated the hardships of the African American lives
,
such as

not being able to travel and

also no

have insurance for any possible situation. Separations
with schools was a matter of color
as well "Miss. Taylor says kids that are colored can
't go to my
school cause they’re

not smart enough" (Stockett 461). This shows the
inequality

Jackson
Mississippi had and how separate they
kept

the colored community away from them.
Discrimination was

a l
arge issue and Skeeter tried

to change that by publishing a book about it
,

hopping it could change the lives of those who lived in Jackson Mississippi.

Hiedo
6


Kathryn Stockett was a brave woman to take on the pressure of makin
g people sees both
sides of race
in h
er book. Society is now out of a time where prejudice is obvious. It lurks
silently until it strikes the world with horror. Courageous authors like Stockett now come a dime
a dozen and barely speak up for the indiscretion of racial tensio
n. It will take mo
re than just
The
Help

of a novel to end the haunting of discrimination.