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Trouble in Mind

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Essay title: Trouble in Mind

Leon Litwack. Trouble in Mind: Black Southerners in the Age of Jim Cow. New York, United States: Vintage Books, 1998.

Leon F. Litwack is the author of Trouble in Mind. Litwack is an American historian and professor of history at the University of California at Berkeley. He was born in 1929 in Santa Barbara, California. In 1951, Litwack received is Bachelor Degree and then continued to further his education. In 1958, he received his Ph. D. from the University of California at Berkeley. Samuel Eliot Morison and Henry Steele Commager wrote the book that sparked Litwack’s curiosity in history. The book was The Growth of the American Republic. Litwack was in the eleventh grade when he first discovered his interest in history. In 1964, Litwack began teaching at the University of California, where he taught an excess of 30,000 students. Litwack has written other books besides Trouble in Mind. One of the books he wrote was Been in the Storm So Long: The Aftermath of Slavery in 1979. In 1980, Litwack was the winner of the Pulitzer Prize for history of this book and in 1981 he was the winner of the National Book Award. He also wrote North of Slavery: The Negro in the Free State, 1790-1860, Without Sanctuary: Lynching Photography in America, and The Harvard Guide to African-American History. Litwack has also won many including, the Francis Parkman Prize, the American Book Award, and he was elected to the presidency of the Organization of American Historians. In addition to this, Litwack has been an outstanding teacher and received two notable teaching awards. Litwack’s first teaching position was at the University of Wisconsin in Madison, where he taught from 1958 to 1964. He also taught at the University of South Carolina, Louisiana State University, and the University of Mississippi. As one can see, not only has Litwack been an exceptionally outstanding author, he has also been a very popular and influential teacher.

Throughout the book, it has numerous examples of the lifestyles the blacks lived during the Jim Crow era. This was the period between 1890 and 1915. Litwack elevates and points out the bloodiest and most brutal period in the history of time. Trouble in Mind reveals the effects of discrimination that still appear to us today. Litwack gives voice to blacks and whites by personal accounts of white domination during the Jim Crow era.

An example of these white dominations could be found in the story with Charlie Holcombe. This example is of lesser color and is not as appalling but is equal to any of the illustrations throughout the book. Charlie Holcombe grew up about a mile from the Sampson County line in North Carolina. His father was a tenant tobacco farmer and he worked from sunup till sundown in the growing season. Charlie was too young and fragile to work in the fields. He spent his time helping Grandfather Holcombe with chores around the house because he was unable to work in the fields due to his back. Charlie and his grandfather would go fishing and his grandfather would often share thought and realistic lessons with him. One lesson in particular was that “a catfish is like a nigger; as long as he is in his mudhole he is all right, but when he gits out he is in for a passel of trouble.” His grandfather told him “to ’member dat, and you won’t have no trouble wid folks when you grows up.” (4) As time went by, Charlie persisted in being independent of whites and to break out of indebtedness. When he finally thought he had accomplished this, Charlie got in an argument with his landlord over how much he owned him for warehouse charges. Even though Charlie knew he was right, he could not read and it made him very angry. He hit the man in the face, then went crazy and killed him. The judge sentenced Charlie a year’s labor on the roads which was a very lenient sentence. Charlie’s landlord agreed to carry his wife and children over until he could pay them back, and this took three years. After all this took place, he wanted better things for his oldest son, Willie, so he managed to get him all the way through high school. Then, Willie wanted more for himself and he went on to college in Greensboro. He worked very hard to finished near the top of his class and then found out that even though he was educated, it was still hard to find work. He was helping his dad one day and carried a load of tobacco to the warehouse but never returned. Several white men killed Willie because of an argument over the settling price for the tobacco. This proved that no matter how small the argument or “out of place” for the blacks,

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