The short story “One Friday Morning” by Langston Hughes is about a young black girl, Nancy Lee, who recently moved out of the South with her parents so they may provide her with a better life and schooling. Very talented in watercolor painting, she wanted to make that her major in college. Regrettably, there are some people in the world that are just blinded by race and forget how America was supposed to be a place for equal rights without tyranny.
Nancy Lee may be a colored girl, but at times in her new school she forgets that she has different skin color than the rest of the students. Her peers would overlook her race as well, and they saw her as a young and talented individual. This represents foreshadowing that she was not seen as colored although she was. Nancy Lee had painted an award winning piece 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.
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 as they felt if Nancy Lee were to attend the Institute it would cause controversy amongst others. The day Nancy was to receive the award, she was told by her principal, Miss O’Shay, that she would not acquire this magnificent prize because of the color of her skin.
Miss O’Shay regrettably informed the talented girl that “When the committee learned that you were colored, they changed their plans. ” Nancy Lee looked up at her principal and noticed the bright spring day it was outside just like in her painting. At the weekly assembly, Nancy Lee took her seat along with 3000 other students, turned her head, and said the pledge to the flag that is supposed to symbolize freedom and equal rights with “Liberty and justice for all”.
She then decided that even though she was not accepting the award, which was rightfully hers, she would fight to make a difference in the future so no other young girls would go through what she was currently enduring. One gloomy day the principal, Miss O’Shay called Nancy Lee into her office after school. Miss O’Shay made Nancy Lee aware that her painting had won the contest; but also asked her to keep it a secret until the assembly on Friday when she was to accept the award.
She was not supposed to tell Nancy Lee, however, Miss O’Shay felt it would be in Nancy Lee’s best interest to know ahead of time so she wouldn’t be taken off guard and could remain composure at the time of the acceptance. The irony in this is that if Miss O’Shay did not tell Nancy Lee of her winning then, on the day of the assembly, Nancy Lee would not have to be called into the office to receive the disturbing news that she would not be called on stage to accept the award because of the color of her skin.
Even though Nancy Lee, as well as her peers, would sometimes forget that she was a brown girl, the committee couldn’t see past her skin color. Nancy Lee went from being a bright eyed, brown colored girl to a dark girl that day. Within the context of the story Langston Hughes portrays the stars on the American Flag as a symbol of hope to all. Not only in the 1950’s but also in today’s society the stars on our flag of freedom represent what all Americans are about, liberation and equal rights for all.
Our ancestors came to this country to make a better life for themselves as well as their children. Even during our national anthem “The Star Spangled Banner” the last verse says “Oh, say does that star-spangled banner yet wave, o’er the land of the free and the home of the brave” The stars on the flag will always mean the same regardless the year whether its 1814 when the national anthem was written, the 1950’s when this story took place, or in the year 2012. Bigotry is something that we all have to deal with. Some people are so scared of change and anything different.
Even though we all have the same rights as humans, some people just can’t see past the color of a person’s skin; not just the outer difference, but also religious beliefs as well. We live in a society that no matter how much a person can persevere through discrimination there is always going to be someone to try and hold them back. In my point of view, intolerance of someone that is different is a disgrace to all mankind. This is something that Langston Hughes illustrates very well in the story. Nancy Lee, a very talented young girl, deserved to win the scholarship; but because of the color of her skin she was denied what was rightfully hers.