Shirley has such a loud voice that the neighborhood grocer accuses her of shouting the labels off his cans. He says that all will be quiet in the grave. A happy child, Shirley goes to school in an old red-brick building where the children must stand in straight lines.
In this story published incelebrated poet, novelist, and playwright Langston Hughes —67 describes such an incident in the life of a talented and proud American high school student, Nancy Lee Johnson, whose family had moved from the Deep South to the North so that she might have better opportunities.
What, to begin with, are her attitudes toward her country and toward her race? Has it changed by the end?
Has the move North been in vain? Is color-blindness a possible or desirable prospect in America—for blacks? If racial prejudice is at odds with the American Dream, what about racial pride and racial preferences? The thrilling news did not come directly to Nancy Lee, but it came in little indirections that finally added themselves up to one tremendous fact: Yet you never could tell.
Last year nobody had expected Joe Williams to win the Artist Club scholarship with that funny modernistic water color he had done of the high-level bridge.
In fact, it was hard to make out there was a bridge until you had looked at the picture a long time. Nancy Lee Johnson was a colored girl, a few years out of the South.
But seldom did her high-school classmates think of her as colored. She was smart, pretty and brown, and fitted in well with the life of the school.
She stood high in scholarship, played a swell game of basketball, had taken part in the senior musical in a soft, velvety voice, and had never seemed to intrude or stand out, except in pleasant ways so it was seldom even mentioned—her color.
Nancy Lee sometimes forgot she was colored herself. She liked her classmates and her school. Particularly she like her art teacher, Miss Dietrich, the tall red-haired woman who taught her law and order in doing things; and the beauty of working step by step until a job is done; a picture finished; a design created; or a block print carved out of nothing but an idea and a smooth square of linoleum, inked, proofs made, and finally put down on paper—clean, sharp, beautiful, individual, unlike any other in the world, thus making the paper have a meaning nobody else could give it except Nancy Lee.
That was the wonderful thing about true creation. You made something nobody else on earth could make—but you. Nancy Lee was proud of being American, a Negro American with blood out of Africa a long time ago, too many generations back to count. But her parents had taught her the beauties of Africa, its strength, its song, its mighty rivers, its early smelting of iron, its building of the pyramids, and its ancient and important civilizations.
Both parents had been to Negro colleges in the South. And her mother had gotten a further degree in social work from a Northern university.
Her parents were, like most Americans, simple, ordinary people who had worked hard and steadily for their education.
Now they were trying to make it easier for Nancy Lee to achieve learning than it had been for them. They would be very happy when they heard of the award to their daughter—yet Nancy did not tell them.
To surprise them would be better. Besides, there had been a promise. Casually one day, Miss Dietrich asked Nancy Lee what color frame she thought would be best on her picture. That had been the first inkling.
It was, she knew, the best water color she had painted in her four years as a high-school art student, and she was glad she had made something Miss Dietrich liked well enough to permit her to enter in the contest before she graduated.is and in to a was not you i of it the be he his but for are this that by on at they with which she or from had we will have an what been one if would who has her.
"The Loudest Voice" is an amusing tale about a little Jewish girl, chosen to play the lead in her school's Christmas pageant, and her family's reactions. Despite the story's popularity, Grace Paley's reading of it at Vermont Public Radio for New Letters On The Air was the first time she ever recorded it.
Aug 26, · Grace Paley, writer and social activist, died last week at Her tragicomic short stories, rich with everyday dialogue, often chronicled the lives of women — generally Jewish New Yorkers. Her tragicomic short stories, rich with everyday dialogue, often chronicled the lives of women — generally Jewish New Yorkers.
A chronological listing of historical, literary, theatrical and musical inspirations for Rush.
Please feel free to email any suggestions. Grace Paley’s Collected Stories, which includes “The Loudest Voice,” was published in by Farrar, Straus and Giroux. The scholar of Yiddish and American Jewish literature Anita Norich wrote an excellent short biography of Paley for the Jewish Women’s Archive.
A documentary film entitled Grace Paley: Collected Shorts (), directed by Lily Rivlin, was presented at the Woodstock International Film Festival and other festivals in The film contains interviews with Paley and friends, footage of her political activities, and readings from her fiction and poetry.