Not Logged in.
Book Jacket
The Underground Railroad
A magnificent tour de force chronicling a young slave's desperate bid for...
Summary and Reviews
Excerpt
Reading Guide
Author Biography

How do Cora's challenges in North Carolina mirror what America is still struggling with today?

Created: 10/27/16

Replies: 8

Posted Oct. 27, 2016 Go to Top | Go to bottom | link | alert
davinamw

Join Date: 10/15/10

Posts: 1303

Expert

How do Cora's challenges in North Carolina mirror what America is still struggling with today?

In North Carolina, institutions like doctor's offices and museums that were supposed to help 'black uplift' were corrupt and unethical. How do Cora's challenges in North Carolina mirror what America is still struggling with today?


Posted Oct. 30, 2016 Go to Top | Go to bottom | link | alert
annw

Join Date: 04/25/14

Posts: 3

RE: How do Cora's challenges in North Carolina mirror what America is still struggling with today?

Women are subjected to rape and male fantasies and fear.
Non-gendered bathroom are a big concern. Yet, more often women's bathrooms have long lines.

When I want to use the male one, no go. Yet, why not stalls for all?

Women's bodies appear to be everyone' property. Male politicians object of behavior. That was because they have a wife, daughter or mother. Cora was all of those things. And brutally raped.


Posted Nov. 02, 2016 Go to Top | Go to bottom | link | alert
KateB

Join Date: 02/11/16

Posts: 53

Expert

RE: How do Cora's challenges in North Carolina mirror what America is still struggling with today?

The section in North Carolina was shocking. I had no idea about any of that, historically speaking.

For me it resonates because beneath the appearance of equality today there are clearly still major difficulties challenging the black community. Racism may not be legitimized by the law, but it is still there. Issues like the number of African Americans in prison, the current suggestion that stop and frisk should be used by police and the number of African Americans being killed by police make me concerned about the level of hidden racism.


Posted Nov. 02, 2016 Go to Top | Go to bottom | link | alert
JLPen77

Join Date: 02/05/16

Posts: 130

Expert

RE: How do Cora's challenges in North Carolina mirror what America is still struggling with today?

Great question, because I think the author wanted us to realize that the historical America of the novel is still 100 percent with us. To me the author is saying: Today black people in America are still in bondage as much as they were in the era of legal slavery.

In the South Carolina part, Cora thinks she is finally free, despite being nominally the property of the US government, because she is treated as a human being, she is educated and offered employment -- although still controlled in where she lives and where she works, limited to unskilled labor and low wages. She notices segregated housing and stores, with higher prices at the black ones. All of these conditions are still present today. Also (as was true in history) Cora is pressured to consider sterilization, and to encourage the other former slaves to do so, with broad hints that her advancement and success is contingent upon her cooperation. And Cora realizes this sterilization would be a theft of her future, a theft of her hope. Then she realizes that some women have undergone enforced sterilization...others have been used as guinea pigs under the guise of "health care"... the same physical power over their bodies that slave owners had, and that still exists today through the denial of access to health care, especially reproductive health care, to large numbers of black women living in poverty. As in this part of the story, today, advancement is contingent upon their collusion in an economic and political system that still considers them less than human, controlled by whites that still fear being outnumbered. Friendliness and respect from whites can be withdrawn at the first sign of non-compliance (as Cora discovers when she declines to be sterilized).

In the North Carolina part that follows, even this veneer of conditional civility and tolerance and limited opportunity is removed. Now we see open attacks upon blacks whether slave or free, and upon anyone who helps them. The "Freedom Trail" is flanked by hanging corpses, and mocking and murdering black people is a regularly scheduled public entertainment. The effort to replace blacks who outnumber them with a white immigrant form of slave labor means that black people are trash: no jobs, no right to work, or even to exist. We can see parallels today in the lack of jobs or advanced educational opportunity for black teens especially, and the disproportionate rates of incarceration for the same crimes or misdemeanors as whites; we can see it in the brutal resistance to the Civil Rights movement and to Black Lives Matter. Even a Harvard professor, if black, can be arrested and jailed for entering his own home in a nice neighborhood (like Henry Gates). Their physical safety from brutal violence is not guaranteed; they can still be attacked legally (shot by police, or by white men like Zimmerman under "stand your ground" laws), or locked up--not as escaped slaves, but on the flimsiest of pretexts, a look, a harmless gesture, or through racial profiling.

Significantly, in South Carolina, Cora's big advancement from housemaid is to pose in a museum exhibit that she knows is lying to the jeering white public about the horrors of the slave trade and the plantations; America still whitewashes the truth and pretends to have moved beyond slavery, but as Cora thinks to herself: "All men are created equal, unless we decide you are not a man." Too many white Americans still have that attitude, or even if not overtly feeling that way, fail to recognize their white privilege, the privilege of not living in constant fear and with constant denigration. Too many of us, while not actively racist, fail to grasp what it feels like to live as a black person, we look the other way and do not speak up to address this problem. In North Carolina, the author takes this one step further: Cora hears Ridgeway's rationale for racism: whites are divinely entitled to take whatever they want. Manifest destiny is alive and well in America today, certainly expressed openly in this national election.


Posted Nov. 03, 2016 Go to Top | Go to bottom | link | alert
celiaarnaud

Join Date: 04/18/12

Posts: 35

RE: How do Cora's challenges in North Carolina mirror what America is still struggling with today?

From the explication of the question, this seems to actually be referring to the South Carolina chapter rather than the North Carolina chapter. In South Carolina, it seems like such an enlightened place. The African Americans seem to be treated well. They can have jobs. But then you find out that they are being sterilized and experimented upon without their consent. While there are many problems with race relations today, the clearest parallels I see in this book are actually to things that happened in the 1900s, especially the Tuskegee syphilis study. The race relations were so bad that people could experiment on others with impunity.


Posted Nov. 18, 2016 Go to Top | Go to bottom | link | alert
edie

Join Date: 04/05/12

Posts: 44

RE: How do Cora's challenges in North Carolina mirror what America is still struggling with today?

One of the scariest parallels in the wake of the recent election is the rise in hate crimes instigated by fear of the other. NC had witnessed the increasing numbers in their black population and allowed the fear mongers to convince them that their survival could only be guaranteed by eradicating all blacks, we are seeing those who afraid of losing jobs to Hispanic immigrants convinced to support deportation, those who fear terrorist attacks beginning to advocate for closing our borders to all Muslims, and those who fear the anger and frustration of blacks who suffer from civil rights inequality, calling for harsher stop and frisk laws. Fear is the driving force of hate crimes and Whitehead's North Carolina is a warning about how far that can be taken.


Posted Nov. 22, 2016 Go to Top | Go to bottom | link | alert
alisonf

Join Date: 01/31/13

Posts: 82

Expert

RE: How do Cora's challenges in North Carolina mirror what America is still struggling with today?

North Carolina was a horrific section. I found the idea that the white population was worried about being outnumbered by blacks one of the main concerns of white males and their continued racist notions-toward African Americans, Latinos, anything that is not like them. North Carolina's solution was get rid of all of them. How is that different than current deportation plans and wall building!


Posted Nov. 22, 2016 Go to Top | Go to bottom | link | alert
marganna

Join Date: 10/14/11

Posts: 90

Expert

RE: How do Cora's challenges in North Carolina mirror what America is still struggling with today?

I cannot answer this question. Racism is alive & doing well, it seems. I did not separate the misery in this book between the states. Each offered its own form of hatred & fear & cruelty.


Posted Nov. 25, 2016 Go to Top | Go to bottom | link | alert
pamelah

Join Date: 05/19/11

Posts: 19

RE: How do Cora's challenges in North Carolina mirror what America is still struggling with today?

I think the author's "mash up" of events that Cora observed in South Carolina, and some 20th century practices with regard to negroes, was very interesting. Two that come to mind are (1) The Tuskeegee Syphilis Study, were black males were used as subjects and (2) The 20th North Carolina study in Eugenics, where "mentally ill" people, mostly of color, were sterilized unknowingly to prevent them from procreating. Reparations for the latter are under consideration currently in the state of NC.


Reply

Please login to post a response.