Play Fences By August Wilson Research Paper Sample Paper

Racial discrimination is defined as an act that deals with considering a person differently based from that person’s race (Bell). Based on this definition, it does not seem something serious, but what happened during the 1920s in America aroused a new act against the right of people to equality. It was in 1920 that racial discrimination started when the dominant White-Anglo Saxon Protestants wanted to preserve their culture with much power; the minorities such as the Mexicans, the Orientals and most especially the blacks (Africans) suffered from the hands of these people (Racial Discrimination in America During the 1920s). It was obvious that because the White-Anglo Saxon Protestant people had much power and most probably had more money, they took advantage of such power and wealth to be able to go ahead of the other race. This event started issues such as inequality, segregation and slavery. More than any other minority group, the blacks or the Africans suffered more from racial discrimination. But it was during the 1950s that the blacks already started to gain equality with the other people in society. Little by little, the black race started to step up and fight for their right for equality. It was also during this century that set the setting for the well known play “Fences” by August Wilson. The play “Fences” was written by Wilson to portray the life that African American people were experiencing after the racial tensions that happened over the past years. Amongst other issues discussed in the play, the most common and evident theme was about racial discrimination and how the characters in the play experienced it and affected their lives.

“Fences” is a play written by August Wilson that aims to present to audience what life was like for the African American society. The setting of the play took place at Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania where the Maxsons, an African American family, resides. The problem that arose in the family happened during the time when Rose asked Troy to build a fence around their house.  It was in their house where the story of the play developed. “Fences” is a story about how Troy Maxson, the protagonist in the play, suffered from the experiences that he had during the times when discrimination against his race dominated the minds of people. It was because of his tragic experiences of violence and failure that he became what he is now, an unfaithful husband to his wife and a violent father to his son. He became unfaithful because of an affair that he had which led him to father the child of Alberta. Their affair produced Raynell; though he was an illegitimate son of Troy, Rose, Troy’s wife, accepted the baby to their family because of the death of Alberta during child birth (SparkNotes Editors). The story revolved around the relationship of Troy not only to his wife but most especially his relationship with his son Cory Maxson. Cory now lived in a world where the African American communities were making their way into equality, viewing life now much differently compared to how his father viewed it during his time. Cory was just like his father in a sense that both of them loved sports. Troy before was on top of his career as a baseball player when the segregation amongst the races started and eventually he had to be taken out of the team not because he did not have talent but because of the color of his skin. The debate on whether Cory would pursue football or not started the whole conflict between both of them. Troy’s experience of discrimination made him push Cory not to pursue such dreams. But for Cory, he now saw how different the status of their race was in society. He saw how segregation among different races had now been eliminated and saw this as a chance to pursue his dream. Troy became violent to Cory because he was going against the wishes of his father. Because of this Cory, left home and joined the Marines (SparkNotes Editors). Years passed and finally Cory came home; he came home to attend a funeral, the funeral of his father.

The play “Fences” more than anything else shows the effect of racism on people and families alike. Troy Maxson, the protagonist in the play, was said to have lived in an era where racial discrimination against the minorities started. Before, he lived a life that was centered on his love for sports, playing baseball; he even mentioned that baseball was something that he was most proud of (SparkNotes Editors). But because of racism, especially against the blacks, segregation happened and it eventually made him leave the sport that he truly loved. It was during this time that segregation amongst people with different colors of skin took place. It was not only in sports that this was experienced by African American people. This segregation even happened in education. George W. McLaurin was one of the many African Americans who was denied of obtaining an education just because of the color of his skin (“A Century of Racial Segregation: “With an Even Hand”: Brown v. Board at Fifty”). It was in 1948 when McLaurin enrolled and wanted to take up an advanced degree in education (“A Century of Racial Segregation: “With an Even Hand”: Brown v. Board at Fifty”). Because he enrolled at a white-dominated university, his application was rejected because the university did not allow blacks and whites to be in the same university. The decision of the university to deny his application made McLaurin file a complaint against this particular university and won (“A Century of Racial Segragation: “With an Even Hand”: Brown v. Board at Fifty”). Even though Mc Laurin won and was allowed to attend classes, he was still not allowed to attend his classes together with his other classmates. He was stationed in an anteroom of his classroom. In this case, we can see how racism and segregation took a toll on the lives of the African American people. Troy Maxson, in the play “Fences” experienced the same thing as McLaurin experienced at school, that is, being disregarded only because of the color of their skin. More than segregation, the African Americans also experienced unequal opportunity especially in the work place.

Racial discrimination against the African American people not only eliminated them from society but also provided them with limited opportunity in the work place. The issue of equal opportunity could be seen in the play “Fences” from the character of Troy Maxson. Troy Maxson, from a baseball player, ended up as a mere garbage collector. Being a garbage collector was the only job that he could do; he was not even allowed to drive the garbage trucks because according to their boss, black employees were not allowed to drive the garbage trucks (SparkNotes Editors). This situation of Troy started when racial discrimination dominated the society. Before racial discrimination started, especially against his race, he had the best career as a baseball player. But because the blacks were limited to join leagues such as these, he continued on as a garbage collector. Here, we can see how Troy experienced limited opportunities available for him just because of the color of his skin. The limitation of his job as a garbage collector only showed how low the job opportunities were available for people like him. From cleaning houses to shining shoes, these were some of the jobs offered to African Americans during their time (Alchura). This shows that the only jobs available for African Americans mirror how people at that time see them, a people who are at the same level as that of their jobs. Racial discrimination showed how the whites provided limited access to jobs among the inferior blacks in society (“Race”). Years passed and the discrimination got worst, which was why in 1950s, people of color started to fight for their right to be equal with the whites.

It was in 1950 that the blacks started to stand up and fight for their rightful place in society. People of color saw how society treated them differently that it gave them limitations especially in education. In the play “Fences” Troy Maxson also fought to have equal opportunity in the work place. He filed a complaint because he did not see why blacks were not permitted to drive garbage trucks. He won the case and was assigned as one of the first African Americans in their city to drive a garbage truck (SparkNotes Editors). In this scene, it showed how limited options were available for African American people in the work place, that even being a garbage truck driver was not allowed. The act of Troy filing a complaint showed that the time he is living now is accepting and considering their race little by little. It was also in education that African Americans experienced segregation, but later on they fought for their rights for equality. The example earlier of McLaurin showed how discrimination also applies to education. Because McLaurin saw how the university treated him differently, in 1950, he filed a complaint against the university because even though he was admitted into the university, he was still discriminated in a way that he was segregated from his white classmates (“A Century of Racial Segragation: “With an Even Hand”: Brown v. Board at Fifty”). This case of McLaurin started the Brown v. Board of Education case against discrimination in school education (“A Century of Racial Segragation: “With an Even Hand”: Brown v. Board at Fifty”). The Brown v. Board of Education 347 U.S. 483 was decided on May 17, 1954. This was an appeal against the segregation of the whites and the blacks in the public schools (“National Center for Public Policy Research”). This was an appeal for the state to consider the “separate but equal” doctrine. Though blacks may receive the same education and access to facilities of schools and universities, segregation still denied the right of a black person to be equal because they were still segregated according to their race (“National Center for Public Policy Research”). The appeal considered cases such as McLaurin’s and many more who were denied of an education at first and experienced segregation inside the classroom. Because all the cases that prove that the “segregation but equal” doctrine does not apply to public schools, the Brown v. Board of Education decided that segregation also reflects discrimination against the colored race even though they receive “equal” facilities. This paved the way for people of color to fight for their right to be respected and treated as an equal citizen with other people in the society.

The African American people have gone through years of discrimination and inequality but they manage to stand up for their own and let their voice be heard. “Fences” by August Wilson reflected what life was like for people living in a society, starting a new life from the horrible effects of discrimination. Wilson wanted to enlighten people that discrimination did not do any good for the people no matter what race they were. This play and the history of discrimination of African Americans show both the struggle and the attainment of equality with the other members of society.

Works Cited

Alchura, Jakarta. “Play reviews: Fences by August Wilson (historical criticism perspective)”.

Helium n. pag. Web. 13 May 2010. <


Bell, Derrick. “Defining Race Racism and Racial Discrimination.” University of Dayton’s

Faculty web server. N.p., 2008. Web. 13 May 2010.


SparkNotes Editors. “SparkNote on Fences.” SparkNotes LLC. n.d.. Web. 6

May 2010.

“A Century of Racial Segregation: ‘With an Even Hand’: Brown v. Board at Fifty”. Library

of Congress. 2004. Web. <


“Civil Rights: Brown v. Board of Education I (1954)”. The National Center for Public Policy

Research. National Center, n.d. Web. 17 May 2010.


“Post-War Economic Boom and Racial Discrimination”. Race 2007: n. pag. Web. 13 May



“Racial Discrimination in America During the 1920s”. 13 May 2010



Racial Disparities In Arrests In The United States

Arrest among the Africa American in the United States is almost eight times that of the European Americans, the Indians and Hispanics are imprisoned about three times that of the European Americans. Most of the arrests are not justified, but are as a result of policies implemented in the mid 1970s.

The arrests have grown significantly due incarceration for lesser offenses and drug related offenses which, in actual sense makes the situation even worse, by making it hard for the young offenders to miss a chance of being rehabilitated, became productive through finding a good and well paying job. The children of those arrested, suffer a lot, they miss some basic necessities and good education which in most cases leads them to a life of crime, hence being arrested and the cycle keeps on recurring generation after the other.

In most of the minor offenses racial disparity is more pronounced with the African-American being more arrested and charged compared to the Americans, but for the serious offenses disparity is greatly reduced.

Drugs have been the leading cause of arrest in America, with most of the users being the blacks. The war on drugs has seen most of the Urban black Americans arrested, prosecuted, convicted, and imprisoned, this is because of they form a  large proportion of drug abusers in America than the whites.

Drug related offenses have no comparison with other offenses such as murder, rape, and robbery, the drug law is less offense driven but vary from one state to the other. The level of arrest is thus left to the local decision making organs and this influences the degree of enforcement and promotes disparities in the arrests.

Racial profiling has contributed to disparities in arrests for similar offenses committed by different racial groups, particularly in war against the use of drugs. Racial disparity has caused magnified arrests and incarceration of individuals arrested without the much required behavior change.

Racism among the blacks Americans and white Americans has contributed greatly to arrest, this is evident on the highways where by any black driving along the roads goes through frequent checkups because the blacks are perceived to be drug traffickers even when innocent. Denial to comply results to arrest that cannot be justified in the courts. The systems need drastic changes so as to eliminate these biases.

Racial discrimination according to race and ethnicity in the United States criminal justice system in the black community has caused many black lots of problems since they cannot easily access justice after being arrested.

In conclusion, disparities should be reduced as a way of improving the levels of justice. The reduced disparities will create room to help minors who can establish productive lives thereafter. In my opinion, racial disparities in arrest in the United States creates a serious problem within the society because those arrested are more likely to engage in criminal activities after serving their jail term due to frustrations and other related social injustices they have experienced. The legal system and law enforcers should treat all offenders equally without discrimination and the issue of racial disparities in arrest will be solved for ever.


  1. M. Tonry. Malign Neglect: Race, Crime, and Punishment in America, Oxford University Press, USA, 1996.

Racial Disparity In The Application Of The Death Penalty


Since the days of slavery in which minorities were considered possessions, through the periods of Jim Crow rules and lynching, the death penalty has always been plagued by race. Regrettably, the days of racial disparity in the application of capital punishment are not a vestige of the past. Presently, there exists a great disparity in the implementation of federal capital punishment. Racial minorities are being charged under federal capital punishment far beyond their percentage in the overall population or the populace of criminal offenders. Evaluation of prosecutions under the death penalty or capital punishment of the Anti-drug Abuse Act  indicates that eighty nine percent of the selected defendants for death penalty have either been Mexican-American or African-American (Death Penalty Information Center, 2009). In addition, the figure of prosecutions under the other acts has been on the increase in the previous years with no visible decline in the ethnic disparities. Almost all of the recently accepted federal death penalties have been against black defendants.  This sequence of inequality further adds to the proof that ethnicity continues to play an intolerable part in the application of death penalty in America. Additionally, it confirms the conclusion that the capital punishment experiment has totally failed.

Background on Death Penalty and Race

Throughout United States’ history, capital punishment has declined unreasonably on racial minorities. For instance, since 1930, almost 90% of those executed for rape crime were African-American (Death Penalty Information Center, 2009). Presently, about fifty percent of those on death row come form minority populace accounting for 20 % of the nation’s population. In the year 1972, the High Court overhauled existing capital punishment provisions in part due to the risks that those being chosen to die were selected out of ethnic prejudice. The discretion of the juries and judges in imposing capital punishment was thought to be behind the selective application of capital punishment, feeding bigotries against the accused on the grounds of poverty or if the accused belonged to an unpopular minority while saving those in a protected social position. Subsequent to the Furman decision, courts embraced sentencing processes that were meant to eradicate the race influence from the process of death sentencing. Nevertheless, proof of racial disparity in the application of death penalty continues. Almost 40 % of those sentenced to death since 1976 have been black minorities even though black minorities comprise only twelve percent of the total population (Death Penalty Information Center, 2009). Additionally, in nearly all death penalty cases, the race of the plaintiff is white.

Last year alone, 89 % of the implemented capital punishment involved white fatalities, even though 50 % of the total homicides in America involve black victims. Of the two hundred and twenty nine executions that have been carried out since the capital punishment was reinstated, only a single case has involved a white defendant for the killing of a black individual (Death Penalty Information Center, 2009). According to the U.S General Accounting report, race was found to be a major influence on the probability of the defendant being prosecuted for murder or receiving the capital punishment. In other words, those who killed whites were found more probable to receive death sentence compared to those who killed blacks. Race still continues to play a pivotal role in ascertaining who shall die and who shall live.

The Federal Capital Punishment

Since the Supreme Court’s Decision commonly known as Furman’s decision in 1972, the issue of the death sentence has been almost solely a state prerogative. Congress has failed to adopt general procedures for sentencing that would re-establish the federal death sentence. No federal capital punishments have been implemented since 1963, and until recently, prosecutions under federal capital punishment have been rare. But this has changed over the previous years, and may change if a pending legislation is adopted to increase the federal government’s role in death penalties. The anti-Drug Abuse legislation included provisions which established an enforceable federal capital punishment for murders perpetrated by those involved in drug trafficking. The manner in which the legislation has been implemented by states since it was signed by President Reagan in 1988 exposes some glaring disparities. For instance, almost seventy five percent of those charged of being involved in drug trafficking activities have been whites and only twenty four percent of the convicts have been black (Death Penalty Information Center, 2009).

However, of those selected for capital punishment under this legislation, the opposite holds true; seventy eight percent of those convicted have been minorities and a mere eleven percent of the prosecuted have been white. Although the figure of cases involving homicide in the collection that the prosecutors are selecting from is fairly unknown, the nearly exclusive medley of minority for the capital punishment, and the obvious contrast between non-capital and capital prosecutions reveal a high degree of racial disparity in the enforcement of the federal capital punishment that even exceeds the pre-Furman sequences. Overall, as Donna argues, “Though African American makes up twelve percent of the national population, they represent close to half of those who are incarcerated for crimes” (2003)

The infectious occurrence of racial disparity in the application of death penalty indicates that this issue has failed to slacken with time and is unlimited to a particular state of the country. The available body of evidence indicates that as long as regions continue to utilize the capital punishment, some defendants who are innocent will be arguably sentenced to death. Glenn and Michael (2007) have argued that these kinds of imperfection have become increasingly evident in the judicial system and researchers have recorded a consistent sequence of disparities in the implementation of the capital punishment that challenges the claim that the penalty is enforced in an equitable and consistent manner.

Causes of Injustice

According to (Glenn and Michael, 2007), one of the probable causes for this ongoing crisis is that those making the crucial capital punishment decisions in America are nearly exclusively white. According to research conducted in Philadelphia, Illinois, California, Florida and others, those who are believed to have murdered whites are more probable to receive death sentences compared to those suspected of perpetrating similar offenses against minorities (Glenn and Michael, 2007). Further, a careful evaluation of death penalty and race in Philadelphia indicated that the chances of getting a death sentence are almost four times high if the accused is black. These findings were obtained after evaluating and controlling case difference including the ruthlessness of the crime as well as the defendant’s background. The results of the analysis were obvious; minorities were receiving capital punishment far in excess compared to other defendants for analogous crimes. The composition of the decision makers has been pointed as part of the elaboration as to why the application of capital punishment remains largely racially skewed. Most of the key decision makers in cases involving capital punishment all over the country are nearly exclusive white individuals.

These studies underscore an importunate sequence of racial disparities which have occurred throughout the nation over the previous twenty years. Evaluations of the connection between the death penalty and race, with changing levels of sophistication and thoroughness, have been carried out in all major capital punishment states. In almost ninety percent of these appraisals, there existed a sequence of either race-of-defendant or race-of-victim discrimination and in some cases both. The enormity of the proximate link between race and capital punishment is revealed when evaluated with researches in other fields. Race is more probable to impact the death sentencing than smoking impacts the probability of dying from cardiac ailment. The latter proof has elicited enormous alterations in societal practice and law, while racial disparity in the capital punishment has been ignored.

Implications of Racial Injustice

Despite irresistible proof of discrimination, the court’s response has been to rebuff relief on the basis that sequences of racial disparities are deficient to attest racial discrimination in individual cases. With the exception of Kentucky, most legislatures have failed to carry out corrective measures to mitigate increased cases of racial bias. Despite the preceding illustration of legislation in rejoinder to similar bias in such field as housing and employment, legislatures on the state and federal level have fallen short of passing civil rights for fear of halting the death penalty totally. Consequently, the sore aggravates as death sentences hasten and appeals are truncated (Olatunde, 2007).

 The human outlay of this ethnic injustice is immeasurable. The decisions concerning who dies and who lives are being accomplished along racial boundaries by an almost all white association of prosecutors. The capital punishment symbolizes a stark sign of the impacts of racial bias. In most single cases, this problem is mirrored in ethnic smears hurled at minority defendants by the defense and the prosecution. This results in black juries being mechanically barred from the service and in the assigning of greater resources to white fatalities of crimes at the expense of minorities. It also results in death penalties in which minorities are repeatedly put to death for killing white, but on the other hand, whites are nearly never sentenced to death for murdering minorities. Such a framework of injustice is not only unconstitutional and unfair but also tears the very values to which the country attempts to adhere.


Race continues to afflict the application of capital punishment in America. On the state echelon, racial discrimination is most noticeable in the principal selection of numerous cases involving white fatalities. On the federal stage, selected cases have nearly exclusively involved marginalized defendants. Under the judicial system, the central government has for a long time embraced the role of safeguarding against racially predisposed application of the death penalty. But under the active federal capital punishment statute, the national record of racial discrimination has been worse compared to that of regional governments. So far, the total number of prosecutions is generally small compared to capital prosecutions in the states. However, the figures are increasing rapidly, and under law presently being proposed in Congress, the national government would assume a broader function in prosecution of death penalties.


Donna, C. (2003).  Addressing the real world of racial injustice in the criminal justice

system. Journal of Criminal Law & Criminology, 93(4), 827-879.

Death Penalty Information Center. (2009). Racial disparities in Federal death penalty

prosecutions. Retrieved June 6, 2009 from


Glenn, L., and Michael, L. (2007). Monitoring death sentencing decisions.  Human

Rights: Journal of the Section of Individual Rights & Responsibilities, 34(2),1-4.

Olatunde, J. (2007).  Legislating racial fairness in criminal justice Columbia Human

Rights Law Review, 39(1), 233-260.