“One Friday Morning” by Langston Hughes Essay

The short story “One Friday Morning” by Langston Hughes is about a young African American girl, Nancy Lee, who recently moved to the north with her parents so they may provide her with a better life and schooling. Extremely talented in watercolor painting, she aspired to make that her major in college. Because of racial discrimination, she was denied the scholarship that would have been her ticket to a brighter future. Sadly, there are some people in the world that are blinded by race and forget how America was supposed to be a place with equal rights and justice for all.

Langston Hughes brings in themes like racism, equal rights between human beings, racial and national pride, and of course the American dream. His biggest aim is to show the world how colored people are treated and that present day America doesn’t fulfill the American dream of all men being equal. Nancy Lee may be a colored girl, but at times she forgets she has a different skin color than the rest of her classmates.

Her peers overlook her race as well, they see her as nothing but a young and talented individual.

Nancy Lee painted an award winning piece of art worthy of a scholarship to an art institute. The painting was of her grandmother sitting on a park bench looking at the American flag on a bright sunny day. This represents a dream that Nancy Lee wanted to express; that all people are equal and deserve to be treated as such. Unfortunately, the art institute didn’t realize that Nancy Lee was a colored girl at the time they chose her painting. When it was made known, they decided to give the scholarship to a white student. They felt if Nancy Lee were to attend the Institute, it would cause controversy amongst others. On the day Nancy Lee was to receive the award, she was told by her principal Miss O’Shay that she would not be able to accept this essential scholarship solely because of the color of her skin.

Miss O’Shay regrettably informed Nancy Lee that “When the committee learned that you were colored, they changed their plans” (Hughes 5). Miss O’Shay did her best to encourage Nancy Lee not to give up and to fight for her dreams. In the story they compare Miss O’Shay with abolitionists and the first white teachers who went to the Deep South to teach the freed slaves. Nancy Lee looked up at her principal and noticed the bright spring day through the open window that resembled her painting. This is a metaphor for the close proximity of the utopia depicted in her art that would have no discrimination and in which all people would be treated equally. (expand on this idea!)

At the weekly assembly, Nancy Lee took her seat along with three thousand other students. She turned her head and said the pledge to the flag, a symbolism of freedom and equal rights with “…liberty and justice for all”. She then decided that even though she’s not receiving the scholarship that was rightfully hers, she’s determined to “fight to see that these things don’t happen to other girls as this has happened to me. And men and women like Miss O’Shay will help me” (Hughes 6). This shows that Nancy Lee isn’t willing to accept that the scholarship was withdrawn simply because of her race, and that with help from people like Miss O’Shay, she is going to start a revolution to make sure that this won’t happen in the future to people like her. Discrimination is all around us; everyone is discriminated against at one point in his or her life.

Langston Hughes, an African-American writer, wrote the short story “One Friday Morning” to describe the experience of one particular girl who was discriminated in her school because she was colored. Life brings many disappointments, all of which make a person stronger. Unfortunately, there will always be discrimination, as it is a part of life. This story is a great example of seeing someone being discriminated against while putting the reader in the main character’s shoes to feel what it feels like to be them. Discrimination occurs for many reasons. A good reason is we become wiser from it and realize that no one deserves to be treated unfairly. From her personal experiences, Nancy Lee will go on to motivate other people to move closer to achieving the high ideal extolled in the Pledge of Allegiance. “…one nation indivisible, with liberty and justice for all.”

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