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Introduction Several poems from Black Voices as well as Harlem Renaissance Womens Poetry make an attempt to convey the effect that hundreds of years of social and mental oppression has had on the African American people As a result of slavery and segregation or in other words racism the African American population has taken an extensive psychological beating Both before and after Emancipation Blacks were forced to hide their thoughts and opinions for fear that they would be hurt in some way Out of this fear to express their emotions African Americans developed a mask which they used to hide their true selves By hiding their emotions Blacks especially slaves thought of themselves as stronger and more able to conquer the racial war that was being fought everyday Without emotion without thought one can go through life without ever feeling pain despair hopelessness anguish all the emotions that can cause weakness Despite the long held tradition of suppressing every weakening emotion African Americans have begun to step out from under their veil and express themselves Thus this concept of a mask has become a common theme of African American literature The Mask Clarissa Scott Delany So detached and cool she is No motion eer betrays The secret life within her soul The anguish of her days She seems to look upon the world With cold ironic eyes To spurn emotions fevered sway To scoff at tears and sighs But once a woman with a child Passed by her on the street And once she heard from casual lips A mans name bitter-sweet Such baffled yearning in her eyes Such pain upon he face I turned aside until the mask Was slipped once more in place The Mask just as its title alludes explains how African Americans use a mask to hide their emotions The author Clarissa Scott Delany begins the poem by describing
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