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Occupation: Conductorette Essay

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What was it like living in the world of an African American woman in the 1940s? An excerpt from the book I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings titled “Occupation: Conductorette” is an autobiography by Maya Angelou. Maya shares her story of how she was discriminated against throughout her life, specifically her teenage years. By examining the autobiography and explanations, the reader will understand how minorities, specifically African Americans, were treated and discriminated against in the 1940s and 50s. Discrimination has always been illustrated in our nation; Maya Angelou experiences this throughout her life and in the workforce.

Between 1939 and 1945, World War 2 was being fought as a consequence of the Holocaust. During this time, African-Americans
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When she explains to her mother how much she wants this specific job, her mother tells her “they don’t accept colored people on the streetcars” (Angelou 27). Maya’s mother does not think that Maya will get the job, let alone apply for it because she knew the manager would disapprove. Since World War 2 was occurring, many men were gone in battle so the women were hired as conductorettes- but never black women, the “lowest” of people at that time. The receptionist has a Southern accent, which makes it even harder to convince her considering the south was the worst location for racism.

Although Maya does not appreciate the way she is being treated, she expects it. Discrimination and the way the minorities were poorly treated was not new and was set out long before this. Maya says that “the incident [with the receptionist] was a recurring dream concocted years before by stupid whites and it eternally came back to haunt us all” (Angelou 29). Maya is trying to inform the reader that this “play” that she lived was scripted by their ancestors, not just her and the white people around her. Racism and the way blacks were treated dates back long ago and stays the same throughout Maya’s teen
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