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Throughout history there have been struggles for many races and nationalities. But no fight has been as tedious and neglected as that of the black woman. In her Detroit-born poem “Black Statue of Liberty,” Jessica Care Moore pays tribute to our forgotten heroes.

A careful analysis of the poem requires readers to observe many themes that run throughout this work. We will discuss racial and gender stereotypes, religious conversion, empowerment (or lack of), and self-recognition. Before we begin to explore these topics, we will briefly discuss characterization.

In the first stanza, Moore characterizes the black woman by describing what the statue of liberty would look like if it were black. The author gives us a clear mental picture of what a strong black woman should carry with us throughout the poem. When the author says that the statue meets “Scar on my face, thick braids in my hair / Battle boots tied” (stanza 1, line 2-3), we get a picture of a woman who is still strong and proud after having been through an obvious conflict. Moore makes us feel sympathy for the black women in the poem if we are not one yet or already know one. Now we will take a look at the first theme presented in the poem.

The first theme presented in the poem is racial and gender stereotypes applied to black women. After being slaves for so long and humbly serving their white masters, black women were downcast like the rabble of society. In white communities they are pigeonholed into the role of “mommy” and in black communities they play the role of the queen of well-being. When Moore writes “Piece by piece, you shaped my body for this country / And now that I’m here you still don’t love me” (stanza 2, lines 7-8), he reinforces the idea that black women were taught that the natural beauty of the possessed was not good enough in the eyes of society. This idea has led many black women to make a false attempt to “euorpoeanize” their appearance, only to not be accepted. After the resentment, we will now see how religious conversion has shaped the beliefs of black women.

Many accounts of slavery give us an overview of how religion was used to hold slaves in contempt with the idea that their only purpose in life was to happily serve their master. This was a small step in the process that helped black women and men lose their identity. Moore talks about how black women live in a nation that “put a Bible under my arm, after you took my faith from me” (stanza 3 lines 15-16), indicating that black women were taught to worship a god they did not worship. I do not believe in. The religion that blacks (women) were used to was forcibly replaced by Christianity. Slave owners used their own interpretation of Bible passages to restore peace on plantations. The slaves were not allowed to learn to read and therefore could not interpret the meanings themselves. With an understanding of how religious conversion affected black women, we can now examine the issue of resentment as it is presented in the poem.

It is a widespread belief of black women that they are not as respected as they should be. Moore gives us a good insight into the lack of recognition that black women have been given. When she writes “And even though you don’t love her, she will never hate you.” (stanza 4, line 24), we capture the concept of the black woman turning the other cheek, although it does refer to the fact that white society claims what belongs to the Afrocentric culture. He claims that black women are “the true symbols of freedom” (stanza 4, line 30) and not “the same people who enslaved us.” (stanza 4, line 31). Moore carries the theme of empowerment throughout the rest of the poem, although he covers it from many different angles. We have discussed the lack of empowerment represented through Moore’s words, now we will discuss how breaking the stereotypes placed on black women empowers them.

Black women have worked hard to break down the toxic images of them that have been featured in the media. Civil rights leaders have made it acceptable to do things by choice that black women were forced to do in the past. Moore supports this idea by writing “I’m sitting in the back of the bus, because I feel like it.” (stanza 5 line 32). He asks us to ask ourselves “What does a liberated woman have to do?” (stanza 6, line 40) to get the recognition you deserve. She gives us a glimpse of all the empowering things black women do, like “sweep the crack pipes from schoolyards” (stanza 6, line 37) and “pay the rent” (stanza 6, line 42) while contradicting negative behavior. black women are known. He states that “my kids don’t use crack and neither do I” (verse 6, line 45). With this line alone, Moore downplays popular preconceptions about black women. Dissecting racial and gender stereotypes, religious conversion, and empowerment brings us directly to our final topic, self-recognition.

If we follow the themes of the poem we can glimpse the struggle of the black woman. In the final stanza we get a sense of self-recognition from black women that is in a way a conclusion to their interpersonal struggle. She realizes that she doesn’t need a statue to be recognized because she is the “walking, talking, surviving, breathing, beautiful black statue of liberty.” (stanza 7 lines 51-52). From slavery to the corporate office, black women in America have faced racial and gender discrimination and religious conversion, but through empowerment and self-recognition they have been able to stand their ground and be heard. After analyzing this poem we should all have more respect and tolerance for those who are different from us. More importantly, we should all have more respect and tolerance for ourselves and for those like us.

Cited works

Moore, Jessica M. “Black Statue of Liberty.” The verses of the alphabet: the ghetto. Ed. Samiya Bashir. First edition. Atlanta, GA: Moore Black Press, 2002.

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