Beulah Collins’ Narratives of African-Americans in Philadelphia

In the southern states of the USA, centuries of slavery and decades of segregation created a legal and political system characterized by the dominance of White people. For example, the legislation (Jim Crow laws) prohibited the education of Afro-Americans at schools and universities along with White; they had to take a special place reserved for them in public transport. Many shops, restaurants, hotels refused to serve them. Afro-Americans always addressed Whites as “Mr.” or “Mrs.” while the latter seldom bestowed such polite treatment of them. Many White southerners believed that Afro-American people are resigned to the role of second-class citizens, and they even like it. In such an outrageous and deprived of civil rights situation, many Afro-Americans moved north where people were more polite than Southerners and did not consider them as slaves.

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Among the different personal narratives of African-Americans in Philadelphia, I chose Beulah Collins as the story of African-American women moved north seeking for a better life for her children deserves respect and attention. According to the interview (August 1, 1983), like many other women, she grew up in the country raising chickens. She explains that after her husband and parent’s death in 1918, she decided to move north to give her son an opportunity to have an education.

Collins narrates that she began domestic work for the affluent Richard family on Chestnut Hill and made $13 a week doing her duties for thirteen hours every day. She was satisfied that even during the Great Depression, she had enough food to eat and a uniform to wear. At the same time, she had to leave her son with “Mom” Taylor and pay her because there was no chance for them to live together in Richard’s residence. In addition, in her speech, Collins discusses her attitude to the religious leader of the Great Depression – Marcus Garvey.

It goes without saying that the Civil Rights Movement influence Collins strongly. It was a time when Afro-American people struggled for equality, feeling the strength and power of unity and pride of themselves. They moved from the South to other regions of the country and from the countryside to the city. In particular, under the impact of the Civil Rights Movement, Collins left her home and headed towards unknown places. Although there was no guarantee to find a good job and a place to stay. In my opinion, it was better than staying at home and resuming her previous life full of humiliation.

If I had lived during this time period, perhaps, the Civil Rights Movement affects me the same way as Collins because I completely agree with Martin Luther King, who stated that all men are created equal. In spite of the resistance and prejudice of white people, for millions of African-Americans, the struggle for their vital interests, civil and human rights, against racial discrimination and terror has become a common vital concern and covered most of the US South. In order to achieve equality, African-Americans had to be united as the outcome depended on everyone. In this regard, I would have joined the Civil Rights Movement to achieve a common goal.

In conclusion, it should be stressed that it was extremely challenging and groundbreaking period when Afro-Americans exerted every effort to have civil rights and better life opportunities resulting in universal equality to some extent.

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StudyCorgi. (2020) 'Beulah Collins’ Narratives of African-Americans in Philadelphia'. 10 May.

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