Citizens barlow

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Citizen Barlow, a young African-American, arrives in Pittsburgh in 1904, part of the wave of freed slaves and their childrenmigrating from South to North following the Civil War. While working at the local mill, Citizen steals a can of nails. Another man is accused and chooses suicide rather than face arrest and a life inwhich he would be unjustly identified as a thief. Citizen hopes to unburden himself of the guilt he feels for the accused man’s death and seeks out Aunt Ester, whose healing powers are legendary. At285 years of age, Aunt Ester lives in a house with Eli, her friend and protector, and Black Mary, a young woman who takes in laundry to earn a living and to whom Aunt Ester hopes to pass on her powers.Eli is intent on building a strong wall around the house so that they will be protected, physically and metaphorically, from the tyranny of Black Mary’s brother, Caesar, the local law enforcementofficial. To the people of the Hill District, Caesar represents a black man gone white, someone ready to oppress and exploit his people for personal gain.

Although the steel mills in Pittsburgh arebooming, pay is low, and rent is high. Solly, Aunt Ester’s good friend and sometime suitor, sees clearly the enormous economic and social barriers that face the newly arrived African-American workers. Welearn from Solly that when the unjustly accused man chose death rather than arrest for stealing the nails, he became a martyr in the eyes of the workers; they have not gone to work for three days andare now rioting. Caesar has arrested more than 200 people and even shot a man.

Meanwhile, Citizen confesses to Aunt Ester that it was he who stole the bucket of nails and that he had been unableto confess to save the accused man’s life. He asks if she can wash his soul and start him on the road to redemption. Aunt Ester consents and instructs Citizen to collect some items he will need for...
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