shadows an analysis of the nadir of race relations


As an important aspect of human society, John Boles discussed in his essay, The Nadir of Race Relations, how white and black Americans dealt with the differences of their races. The author emphasized the events that took place from 1880s to 1930s. Those times were like the dark ages for the black Americans because they were severely discriminated, abused and oppressed. Boles moves on to describe the lynching and the segregation during those times. His vivid descriptions, facts and accounts of true cases were all to send a message to the reader. He invites the reader to see what it was like back then for black Americans and to judge the human character and society.


A defining characteristic of men and women, race is something that is acquired from birth. Neither surgery nor therapy can change what race one is born into. As such, humans developed ways to differentiate themselves from others not like them. Different classes can co-exist and complement each others needs but the physical differences have led to ostracizing and even violence towards other races. John Boles, in the Nadir of Race Relations, showcased these horrible acts of men and women in a society where people are classed according to their skin color.

In essence, the article discussed the relationship of white and black Americans during the late 19th century and early 20th century. The striking events he emphasized in his article were about the degree of segregation and abuse present during those troubled times. He supported these events by presenting hard facts and statistics. The seven page article depicted those times like a story or the plot of an open ended movie.

Starting out with an introduction, Boles first introduced his characters which were the blacks and the whites. The main protagonist of this story would be the blacks while the whites would be the antagonists. Slowly moving up but just before the climax, whites were depicted to have severely oppressed the blacks. Lynching, defined as an unauthorized mob hanging, was introduced as form executing sentences on black Americans made by the people, the white people that is. Court trials were a “domesticated form of lynching.” (Boles, p. 235) Segregation also was introduced. White and black Americans lived in different communities, went to different schools and even churches. It was as if getting near the blacks would leave a dirty stain on the white Americans. Shocking as they maybe but these were actually the norm during those days. There was very little and almost no justice for the blacks.

Exaggerating Boles’s point, white Americans had the God-given power and right to be judge, jury and executioner of the blacks. They were only allowed to live to the extent of which the white community would allow. This was a fact hard to swallow but a fact nonetheless. Black Americans were either to live in fear of an execution any day or to flee from the community, the state and maybe even the continent.

As the climax of this story is reached, the black population could not stand the oppression so they founded their own communities. There were some struggles but they grouped and helped themselves if no one else will. Education gave way for blacks to attain basic skills needed for works. Some pursued higher education, learned and used the law to find equality. When even politicians cannot defend its entire people, leaders like Washington and Lugenia Hope from the black Americans rose to lead their race into some salvation.

Coming to a close during the great depression of the 1930s, the article did not give a definite end but with a hope of a better tomorrow. It hinted that the black Americans would somehow get out of close minded society they were in.

The discussion in the article might have been heavy due to the sadness and gruesomeness of the facts but it was to communicate the author’s argument. Relations between the black and the white Americans went through a lot of storms before it became what it is today. Although racism is still evident today, it is not as bad as it was before.

An essential message from the article was hidden in facts and symbolisms. Skin color and race were given stereotypes known even today. Even from their dark skin, black Americans were the source of evil; they were primitive beings which have not evolved far from the primates. On the other hand, white women with they flawless fair skin were the victims of these evil black men and the white men would be their knight in shinning armor. But who are the true barbarians, the true beasts?

From the article, it said that “….the respectable white society condoned such barbarities while members of the lower order did most of the dirty work.” (Boles, p. 236) The whole community was involved with the lynching and abuse on the black Americans. As described in the article, lynching and abuse were public spectacles. It was like a live show or concert. Everyone would be there cheering and taking part while those in power to stop the events did nothing. Again, who are the true beasts? Who are the true barbarians?

Personally, the article was able to successfully convey the author’s message. Not only did he use strong arguments but Boles also used facts and statistics. These kinds of data are more reliable and often more convincing especially when accompanied by firm statements. However, there were few holes in his presentation.

There was no mention of black fighting against the whites. With the exception of a sentence or two in the first part of his article, the rest of the article was all about white Americans oppressing and abusing the black Americans. For sure, there were cases wherein the black Americans were the ones who induced pain and fear to the whites. This lack of point of view makes the article too one sided. It was entitled “Nadir of Race Relations” expecting the meaning of relations be kept. So, it seemed that the working of definition used in the article was about the fight against the whites not a two way connection.

Reflecting on the article, it arouses doubt and sorrow from the reader. Those times were very problematic and unfortunately, it all seems to lead to the closed mentality of not only the Americans but also other oppressive communities. Maybe humanitarian movements and groups have a stronger effect on the people today but one can remain doubtful of the nature of man. Are humans fated to hate and fear what is different from them? Maybe yes and maybe no, the more important question is what can be done.


Boles, J. (1998) The Nadir of Race Relations. In The South Through Time. (p. 235-241.) Prentice-Hall.

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