Battle Royal Research Paper

Submitted By jon8282
Words: 1181
Pages: 5

Jon Perkins

ENGL1020 EH3

Mr. Pagel

November 3, 2014

The Battle for Education

In 1952, Ralph Ellison wrote a short story entitled “Battle Royal.” It is a story about an anonymous man and his journey to receiving a scholarship in the 1950's. The young African-American man was assigned to give a speech to all of the town's leading white citizens and this is how he would receive his scholarship. It may sound like an easy task; however, the man faces many oppositions along the way (Ellison). Critiques have came up with several different viewpoints as to why Ralph Ellison wrote this short story. For example, some believe that his purpose was to have the main theme of “self-discovery” while others think that the theme is “the individual versus the group” (“What Is”). These are two themes that can definitely be found in the book, but they are not specific enough. I believe that Ralph Ellison's purpose for writing “Battle Royal” was to show that education is worth a struggle. Education in the early to mid-1900's was looked at from two different perspectives. From the black man's perspective, receiving an education would be a dream that would seem impossible to ever come true. The white man's mindset was to do everthing that he possibly could to keep a black man from receiving an education. “Within the south, the general philosophy that had developed since the Civil War, was that if African Americans were kept ill-educated they would remain ‘in their place’ in society. An educated 'boy' could become a danger” (“Education”). This thought was what the majority of the white men still believed in throughout the early to mid-1900's. These were the exact viewpoints that Ralph Ellison was referring to in the short story “Battle Royal.” The narrator of the book was definitely the minority in the education race, but he was determined to find a way to receive a scholarship (Ellison). In 1856, a man who would one day be praised for his fight for African American education was born. His name was Booker T. Washington and he grew up as a slave for the first nine years of his life. This was a difficult struggle that he faced with his mom until 1865 when emancipation set them free. “Of my ancestry, I know almost nothing....the cabin was not only our living-place, but was used as the kitchen for the plantation. The cabin was without glass windows; it had only openings in the side which let in the light, and also the cold, chilly air of winter…there was no wooden floor in our cabin, the naked earth being used as a floor” (United States). This quote from Booker explains some of the harsh living conditions that him and his mom were forced to live in on the farm. After their freedom was granted, Booker and his mom went to West Virginia to meet up with Booker's father that was employed at a local salt mine. Booker would also work in the salt mine until he turned sixteen when he enrolled in the Hampton Normal and Agricultural Institute in Virginia. This is how Booker built a foundation for his own education. Then, in 1881, Booker became the leader of a school that would be known as the Tuskegee Institute. Booker believed that people could go from being in poverty to success (“Dr. Booker”). The first few years of the school there was no actually university or designated building. Then, Booker purchased a former plantation where he and his students would literally build the university brick by brick. Booker and his students longing for an education kept them going until eventually they had their own place to learn in. After World War II, the thoughts of people in America about segregation in schools changed somewhat due to the horror of the death camps in Europe. It opened people's eyes up and kind of brought them “down to Earth.” Blacks that had served in the military came back home and were determined to not let any white man treat them like dogs. A black corporal in the army once said, "I spent four years in