Go tell it on the mountain

Length: 630 words

This novel is set in Harlem in New York City. The Grimes migrate
to the North in search of new opportunities. Elizabeth bids
goodbye to her aunt in Maryland and leaves with Richard. She
arrives in New York with great expectations but she is sorely
disappointed. “Here, in this great city where no one cared, where
people might live in the same building for years and never speak to
one another, she found herself, when Richard took her in his arms,
on the edge of a steep place and down she rushed, on the descent
uncaring, into the dreadful sea.” New York is a big and bustling
city but it is heartless. The only way Elizabeth and Richard make
their existence meaningful is by visiting places of interest in the
city on weekends. They go to the Central Park or the Museum of
Natural history to take their mind off from the daily drudgery.
John Grimes does the same when he has to escape out of his dingy
quarters at Harlem. He climbs a hill nearby to view New York in
all its majesty and imagines himself to be an influential figure in
the city. From there he walks over to

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mid-town Manhattan and
Central Park to get a feel of the city. John experiences a sense of
freedom in all the places outside his home at Harlem. His house
was “narrow and dirty; nothing could alter its dimensions, no
labour could ever make it clean. Dirt was in the walls and the
floorboards, and triumphed beneath the sink where roaches
spawned; was in the fine ridges of the pots and pans, scoured daily,
burnt black on the bottom, hanging above the store; was in the wall
against which they hung, and revealed itself where the paint had
cracked and leaned outward in stiff squares and fragments, the
paper-thin underside webbed with black.” In similar quarters live
Florence and other Negroes like her. If they look out of their
window, they can see “scraps of paper and frosty dust, and — the
hanging signs of stores and storefront churches.”
In the evenings, the Negro families visit the churches at Harlem
called the Temple of the Fire Baptized. “It was not the biggest
church in Harlem, nor yet the smallest, but John had been brought
up to believe it was the holiest and best.” John and Roy attend the
Sunday school in this church conducted by Elisha before the
morning service. “The Sunday morning service began when
Brother Elisha sat down at the piano and raised a song.” In the
evening, John goes to the church to clean it up before the service.
Life within the homes seems to be secure for the inmates of
Harlem. However, when they step out of its confines, they are
alert. When John walks along the Fifth Avenue and 42-nd streets, he
is cautious lest he be apprehended by the White men. He desires to
enter the Public Library but he is apprehensive as “he had never
gone in because the building was so big that it must be full of
corridors and marble steps in the maze of which he would be lost
and never find the book he wanted. And then everyone, all the
white people inside, would know that he was not used to great
buildings, or to many books, and they would look at him with
pity.” Roy is more daring than John. He strays outside his territory
and provokes the white youth to challenge him. In one such
encounter, he hurts himself. Life for the Negroes in New York in
the mid-twentieth century was insecure. Fear always gripped their
hearts and they were restricted from pursuing their normal
activities. If they dared to rebel, they became victims of racial
prejudice.

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