Strength and the Battle Ground of Slavery II.

  • Trudier Harris


In Annie Allen (1949), Gwendolyn Brooks describes her protagonist as “taming all that anger down”1 in response to a series of mythical scenarios of romance and love from which dark-skinned girls like herself are usually excluded. This control mechanism enables Annie Allen to swallow her anger and disappointment when her “man of tan,” home from World War II, deserts her and their children by disappearing into the arms of another, lighter-skinned woman. She must move her anger aside when the man of tan returns to her, broken and dying. She also tames all that anger down in trying to raise her children alone in a society that does not value them. She speaks of “fighting” before “fiddling,” but she is finally merely “polite” and looks to ancestors for guidance. If Annie Allen, who is in many ways an acquiescing, unassuming, self-effacing, and sometimes deliberately weak female character, nonetheless gathers the emotional forces necessary to tame all that anger down, then even more so is that the case with black women characters whose strength and determination are their foremost characteristics. For fictional black women who survive slavery, such as Toni Morrisons Baby Suggs and Sethe Suggs, Sherley Anne Williams’s Dessa Rose, and J. California Cooper’s Always, taming the anger down is perhaps more important than the occasions on which they explode with rage, for they can explode.


Black Woman Female Character Alternative Quest Woman Character Literary Woman 
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  1. 1.
    Gwendolyn Brooks, Annie Allen, in Blacks (Chicago: The David Company, 1987), p. 100.Google Scholar
  2. 2.
    Toni Morrison, Beloved (New York: Knopf, 1987), p. 140. Subsequent references to this novel appear in parentheses in the text.Google Scholar
  3. 3.
    Charles W. Chesnutt, “The Wife of His Youth,” in The Collected Stories of Charles W. Chesnutt, ed. William L. Andrews (New York: Mentor, 1992), pp. 102–113.Google Scholar
  4. 6.
    Alice Walker, The Third Life of Grange Copeland (1970; New York: Avon, 1971), p. 216. Italics in original.Google Scholar

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© Trudier Harris 2001

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  • Trudier Harris

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