The Problem of Skin Color in Thurman’s The Blacker the Berry

  • Saman Hussein Omar College of Languages / Salahaddin University-Erbil
  • Dalia Salahaddin Isamaddin College of Languages / Salahaddin University-Erbil
Keywords: Skin Color, rejection, self-hatred, self-reconciliation, African American novel




This paper deals with the sufferings of a black girl in Wallace Thurman’s (1902-1934) The Blacker the Berry: A Novel of Negro Life (1929). The novel is an account of the challenges a young black girl faces throughout her life in her attempts to get accepted not only by the whites, but also by the lighter black-skinned African Americans of her society. It falls into an introduction followed by two sections and a conclusion. A few critical views on the novel in general are presented in the introduction. Section one shows how the main character of the novel, Emma Lou is rejected and discriminated by the whites as well as the blacks due to her darker black skin. Section two shows how racism is internalized by Emma Lou and how it transforms into self hatred. The socio-psychological effects on the main character in this section further complicate the problem of skin color to the extent one feels there is no hope for Emma. However, as she is left all alone, she has no choice but to accept her reality and live with it. She, therefore, decides to escape no more, and a self-reconciliation concludes our story. The conclusion illustrates also how the protagonist’s chances for acceptance, marriage, and economic independence are virtually non-existent because of her dark skin. It further makes it clear that the problem of darker skin tone could lead to self-hatred once it is internalized. However, there is a glimmer of hope if people realize that a skin color should not be the only criterion through which one is judged.         




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How to Cite
Omar S, Isamaddin D. The Problem of Skin Color in Thurman’s The Blacker the Berry. JAHS [Internet]. 5Dec.2019 [cited 6Aug.2020];23(6):297 -307. Available from: