Overcoming Racism C. P. Ellis had experienced much in his lifetime. He went from poverty to financial independence. He was involved in different organizations in order to make himself feel valid. This helped him gain back his self esteem. In his lifetime, he blamed all of his problems on black individuals and became racist. Studs Terkel in his essay, “C. P. Ellis,” explains the way Ellis overcame his racist beliefs. Throughout his lifetime, Ellis has achieved many other accomplishments. According to Terkel, C. P. Ellis worked several years at a service station prior to getting married.
When he started to have a family, he knew he would need to change his financial situation, so he borrowed money from the bank to purchase his own service station. He ran his service station seven days a week, and he still wasn’t getting ahead. He was very unhappy with his life; therefore, he blamed his problems on black people because of his father’s racial influence on him as a child. Terkel points out that the reason for his hatred is because his father “was a member of the Klan. ” Ellis always admired the Ku Klux Klan because they had supported the whites, and in his mind becoming a member of the Klan would make his life better.
He worked his way up to become president of the organization by repeating the vows and promises to maintain the Klan’s mission. Very excited and proud to be involved in an organization that he felt would empower him, Ellis focused on leading his fellow Klansmen. C. P. Ellis understood why low socio-economic individuals would join various groups of society. These groups supported their longing to belong and not be ignored. He realized that the local high school had racial problems, and proceeded to organize a youth group at the high school, and taught them the ways of the Klan.
He believed that Martin Luther King and Andy Young were both affiliated with the communist party. The civil rights movement had already begun when C. P. Ellis saw Ann Atwater lead a demonstration against the whites. It was at this moment when he realized that it was time for the KKK not to be a secret organization. He began attending the city council meetings, and expressing the views of the KKK, and stated that they was not in favor of blacks attending the white schools. At each city council meeting both blacks and whites would attend and speak their minds.
It became known to him that both blacks and whites were not in favor of integration, but the city council did not want to relinquish control to either group. Ellis, According to Terkel, believed that “they were using us. ” (523). After many sleepless nights and realizing that the city council was using them, he spoke out against being used by the city council at the Klan’s meeting. The Klan’s reaction was not pleasant. They wanted to just keep fighting the blacks. Ellis knew then that he needed to get out of the Klan but did not know how.
Terkel points to the fact that the AFL-CIO received a grant from the Department of HEW for $78,000, but it had to be used to solve racial problems in schools. Ellis received a call to join the committee to help resolve the racial problems. During the third meeting, Ellis and Ann Atwater, a militant black woman, were elected co-chairman of the school committee. Ellis thought this would be an impossible task working with Ann, but, to his surprise, he learned that the problems Atwater was having with her fellow blacks were similar to the problems he was having with his fellow whites.
Terkel emphasizes that when Ellis went to work, some of his co-workers approached him and said, “We need a union. ” (517). Ellis met with the representative and talked about starting a union. Ellis proceeded to give out the cards, and they would have an election. He began to organize the people and started seeing that the blacks and whites were being used against each other. He was running for business manager, and the only way he would get elected was by the votes of workers. The candidate that was running against him was a black person, and he knew for sure that he wouldn’t get elected because of his past.
Ellis called a meeting and proceeded to tell everyone where he came from because the company that he worked for would tell everyone that they would be supporting an ex-Klansmen. At the meeting, they held the election, and Ellis won, becoming the business manager for the union. After C. P. Ellis was elected, he realized that the blacks and whites were defeating the racism between them. It took the courage to get what he took to defeat racism. “I had accomplished a lot of things in my lifetime. Martin Luther King always had said there is no dream impossible. (Terkel 528). Ellis wasn’t happy when he heard the news about Martin Luther King getting assassinated. He had tears in his eyes when he was listening to his tapes and now he knew what he was trying to get accomplished. In conclusion, after all C. P. Ellis had gone through, he overcame many obstacles in his lifetime. Ellis accomplished the things that needed to be done. Finally, he had his financial stability and self-esteem. He has proven that any minority group can achieve success through collaboration and has overcome his racism.
Overall, the essay was very intriguing, and Terkel did a fantastic job of interviewing C. P. Ellis. Ellis accomplished a lot throughout his life and overcame his racism. Stud Terkel main point of this essay has proven that a person can do anything he wants to do in life to become someone even if they begin in poverty. Works Cited Terkel, Studs. “C. P. Ellis. ” Gary Colombo, Robert Cullen, Bonnie Lisle 7th ed. Rereading America Cultural Contexts for Critical Thinking and Writing. Ed. Boston: Bedford/St. Martin’s, 2007. 519-528. Print.
Revised Outline Format Thesis: I. C. P. Ellis had experienced much in his lifetime. He went from poverty to financial independence. He was involved in different organizations in order to make himself feel valid. This helped him gain back his self esteem. In his lifetime, he blamed all of his problems on black individuals, and became racist. Throughout his lifetime, he achieved many accomplishments; the main one was overcoming racism. II. First Subtopic: He wants financial stability and self esteem A. He owns a service station B.
He became president of the Klu Klux Klan C. He organized a youth group III. Second Subtopic: Civil Right Movement A. Ann Atwater was the leader of the demonstrations B. City Council Meeting C. Klan Meeting IV. Third Subtopic: How to solve racial problems in the school system A. Ann Atwater and C. P. Ellis were elected as the co-chairperson’s on the school committee B. Business Agent for the union C. Martin Luther King said you can fight the battles between white and black V. Conclusion C. P. Ellis stated the he has conquered his racism.