Racism in Fences by August Wilson

Subject: Sociology
Type: Analytical Essay
Pages: 3
Word count: 825
Topics: Racism, Black Lives Matter, Racial Inequality

In his play Fences, August Wilson dramatized black Americans’ struggles during the 20th century. Through a cycle of ten plays, he documented the African-American experience. Several African Americans experienced informal racial discrimination in the North, while official segregation persisted in the South. In the 1950s, when Fences was set, civil rights began to be realized in the United States. The play’s lessons highlight the negative effects racism may have on Troy Maxson and his family’s mental and physical health. This article will apply the historical analysis approach to the question of racial segregation in August Wilson’s play Fences. Troy Maxson and his family’s experiences with racism represent the racial segregation issue raised in August Wilson’s Fences.

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Elements of Racism

Many people increase their prejudice towards a group of people while also using racism as a tool to identify distinctions from their peers. Additionally, because they believe in racial ideologies, many people insult and emotionally abuse others (Baharvand, 2017). However, in August Wilson’s play Fences, Troy’s aspirations to play baseball professionally were crushed because of his race. His perception of life has progressively changed due to this unique event. He merely falls victim to his self-created illusions because of historical racial persecution. Thus, racism was a major factor in Troy’s life and can be seen in some of his choices (Koprince, 2016). Due to these life experiences, Troy makes rash judgments in this play, resulting in tensions and disputes with the whole family.

One of Troy’s unwise choices in the play prevents his kid from playing football. Cory’s future seemed promising as a football player because of a grant from the school, but Troy disregarded it and now insists that Cory would never play a sport (Baharvand, 2017). With the discrimination he previously faced, Troy assumed that Cory, too, would be maltreated due to the color of his skin. When asked why he did not make it in the NFL, Troy answered it was because of his skin tone. Eventually, he informs the coach that he forbade Cory from playing football and urges the recruiter to leave town (Thompson, 2017). It did not occur to Troy that his family was so stressed since Cory could not follow his goal and become a professional football player.

Race Relations and Black People

Troy desires to be a survivor who fought valiantly to save his life. Troy’s realistic goals are to convince his kid that one must work hard to get what is necessary (Baharvand, 2017). The biggest flaw is that Troy views the environment through his unique viewpoint. Troy tries to stop Cory from using a similar strategy to maximize his football potential. Troy effectively stops Cory from exploring the world for himself in the play by imposing his will on him. As previously indicated, Troy is not trying to ruin his family. Troy claimed to be a parent to save his family from making the same errors he did when he served 15 years in prison for murder (Thompson, 2017). As a result, he does not want his family to follow the same route. Instead of infinite possibilities, he has realized that racial prejudice and poverty are real.

Wilson’s play is partially focused on portraying how racism rules and molds the everyday lives of its characters to expose the numerous implications of racism on the black American community as a whole via the unique experiences of one family in the 1950s (Baharvand, 2017). The play’s depiction of a black society defined by oppression and the fence’s importance and need serves as a searing indictment of the strife and pain white supremacy brings. In addition to bringing home the pain and missed opportunities experienced by the play’s black characters, Fences also humanizes the abstract mechanisms of racism and white power. Wilson demonstrates the mental complexities involved and the physical and mental tolls of surviving in a racist society where whites and blacks are overrepresented. As a means of doing this, Wilson makes pain the overarching theme for almost all his characters (Baharvand, 2017). But he also demonstrates how the pain of that difference may drive black people apart, as in Troy and Cory’s disagreement over the latter’s desire to play football, given that Troy’s parenting style is informed by his earlier encounters with racism in the sports business.


In a nutshell, Troy has experienced racial discrimination, leaving him with deep psychological scars. Beginning the play Fences, which is mostly about him, Troy tells Bono and Rose a heroic tale about his struggle against death. His experiences have shaped his perspective and behavior toward others, and he often uses the motif of death to reference the dominance of the white man in his writings. Throughout the twentieth century, racism in the United States was prevalent and openly practiced. Problems arose for African-Americans in the United States during that period due to widespread prejudice. This kind of treatment hurt a significant number of African Americans because it fostered feelings of hatred and limited their opportunities.

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  1. Baharvand, P. A. (2017). The failure of the American Dream in August Wilson’s Fences. International Journal of English Language & Translation Studies, 5(4), 69-75. http://www.eltsjournal.org/archive/value5%20issue4/10-5-4-17.pdf
  2. Koprince, S. (2016). Baseball as history and myth in August Wilson’s Fences. African American Review, 40(2), 349-358. https://www.lyndhurstschools.net.schools.bz/userfiles/78/Classes/2588/fences%20lit%20crit%204%20baseball.pdf?id=572400
  3. Thompson, C. (2017). Aliens and Fences: The ‘why’ of American racism. NI Syndication Limited. https://go.gale.com/ps/i.do?p=AONE&u=googlescholar&id=GALE|A634503896&v=2.1&it=r&sid=googleScholar&asid=2c675fe9
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