Titanic's Influence On African American Culture

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On April 14, 1912 the RMS Titanic crashed into an iceberg and sank only a few hours later, down to the bottom of the Atlantic. The Titanic was the largest steam vessel ever built and was truly a civilization in its own; due to its economic diversity and number of passengers, the Titanic was basically a floating city. However, after the crashing of the enormous steam vessel, its story became even more intriguing to the public. The tragic event was written about in songs, poetry, and novels. To many, the unsinkable ship was a symbol of identity and hope before it became a tragedy, influencing music and literature.The sinking of the Titanic influenced African American culture and literary works throughout the 20th Century. The segregated Titanic…show more content…
Written for and by African Americans, this poetry mostly came out immediately after the disaster and continued through the 1930’s in southern states such as Missouri or Louisiana, but didn’t become popularized until the 60’s when they were compiled by scholars and became better known in the rest of the US. The Titanic toasts involved a black character named Shine who snuck his way onto the Titanic and warned everyone of the disaster and escaped after no one listened to him. One scholar, Lawrence Levine, notes that Shine’s “situation is symbolic of that of his people: trapped in lowly service deep within the interior of a white vessel.” This poetry really showed the emotions of many African American men and women that still did not have all the same rights as white men. In these Titanic toasts Shine was in a reverse role, which made the poetry all that more amusing and influential. In this Titanic toast excerpt it is shown quite…show more content…
Since the Titanic was considered to be utterly unsinkable, the need for safety equipment on board didn’t seem quite necessary to the White Star Line Vessel Company. Although the ship was built better than most ships today, it lacked the proper safety standard and the systems that are set up now, to keep from running into icebergs. About 2224 people embarked on the RMS Titanic and only around 800 survived. The number of lifeboats on Titanic could only fit a third of the ship’s total capacity and it fit only a little less than half of its passengers on its maiden voyage; not to mention the fact that the boats were on the First Class deck making it impossible for third class passengers to get to safety until they were finally allowed to go to the top deck only about an hour before the Titanic plunged into the ocean. Quoting Gardiner and Van der Vat, “The Line 's record before and after the most notorious disaster of them all is a unique catalogue of dubious or illegal business practice, recklessness, bad luck, accident and catastrophe.” The Titanic was a ship that was built to survive, but destined to fail from it’s safety standards and the crew’s failure to address an issue as life threatening as an
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