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Orpheus Descending Historical Context

This Study Guide consists of approximately 81 pages of chapter summaries, quotes, character analysis, themes, and more - everything you need to sharpen your knowledge of Orpheus Descending.
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Historical Context

Racism in the 1950s South

In the 1950s in the American South, discrimination against black people was commonplace. In Orpheus Descending, Carol mentions that she protested against the execution of a black man named Willie McGee. This was an actual case that occurred in 1951 in Mississippi. McGee was accused of raping a white woman, although in fact he and the woman had a long-standing sexual relationship. McGee's defense counsel challenged the fact that blacks had been excluded from the jury, and that the death penalty for rape was used only against blacks, never against whites. During the trial and appeal, white supremacist groups threatened violence, and although the Supreme Court twice ordered a stay of execution, McGee was eventually put to death.

At this time in the South, many white people were vehemently opposed to any sexual relationships between blacks and whites. The practice was referred to as...

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This section contains 709 words
(approx. 3 pages at 300 words per page)
Purchase our Orpheus Descending Study Guide
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Orpheus Descending from BookRags and Gale's For Students Series. ©2005-2006 Thomson Gale, a part of the Thomson Corporation. All rights reserved.
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