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Transcript of "Passing"
By Langston Hughes
Langston Hughes [1902-1967] was a African American writer who was at the head of the Harlem Renaissance.
His stories were a mix of poetry and short stories showing the lives of the lower middle class African American families and racial consciousness.
This short story was published in 1934 by Langston Hughes
It was in a book of short stories titled "The Ways of White Folks". It was the fourth short story out of 14.
Langston Hughes wrote this collection while he lived out in Carmel, California.
“Passing” by Langston Hughes is a letter written from a half-white African American named Jack addressed to his mother whose name was not specified. Jack racially passes as a white man because of his good hair and fair skin so he got the chance to live life as a white man and took it. He left behind his darker family which consisted of his mother and two siblings, Charlie and Gladys. With Jack living as a white man he was able to have a good job working at a firm where he was earning $65 a week. Jack wants to leave the oppression behind and gain a new job and other opportunities that were offered to the whites.
One day while walking with his girlfriend, a white blonde hair and blue-eyed woman, Jack passes by his mother and doesn’t acknowledge her because his girlfriend doesn’t know that he is half black and he didn’t want to seem suspicious talking to a black woman on the street. After the encounter on the street with his mother Jack then writes a letter to her explaining how things are going for him now that he is living life as a “white man”. He tells his mother about his job, his new life with his soon to be wife, how he hopes that his siblings doesn’t envy him and how he wished that they had lived in separate towns so that they could avoid situations like the one they were in when they bumped into each other on the street. Jack realizes that he must give up his old life and his true identity for good if he wants to continue living with his new white identity as a white superior man.
: Jack has good hair and very fair skin so he is able to pass himself off as a white man which then gives him the chance to get all the good opportunities and jobs that all the other white men were getting. Reality=Jack is a black man who just happens to have fair skin and is able to fool others into believing he is white.
: Jack is tricking his girlfriend because she isn't aware that Jack is black. He tricks her into believing that he is white which is why he can't introduce his mother to her when they cross paths.
Loss of Heritage
: Jack abandoned his African American roots when he chose to embrace his light skin and pass as a white man. Because of this decision, he can't be in the presence of his African American family or friends as to not draw too much attention to himself.