Alice Dunbar-Nelson’s play “Mine Eyes Have Never Seen” exemplifies corruption under the guise of “upliftment.” I believe that Nelson’s play was written to depict horrible and heartbreaking situations that end in grief and heartache. However, that grief and heartache is camouflaged by patriotism that the characters in the play do not owe to anyone. “Mine Eyes Have Seen” tells the story of a family torn apart by racism and corruption. What once was a complete and loving family consisting of father, mother, and 3 siblings, has become instead 3 siblings fighting to survive in a society that has failed them. Their father was a successful black man that was lynched, and their mother died soon after due to a mix of pneumonia and heartbreak. Chris, their son, soon learns that he has been drafted to the U.S. Army, and feels no obligation to serve a country that has failed him and his family. However, after speaking to his neighbor, he is convinced that his purpose is to serve with honor. The family has felt enough heartbreak and pain and now must endow themselves to more in order to save face in a society that does not care about them. What some people might consider “empowerment” at the end really only made me feel grief and sadness. I believe Nelson’s purpose was to show the two faces a play can portray. While some may feel proud of the character’s sacrifice and duty, other’s feel hopeless. A brother, who cares for his family after everything they’ve been through, must now succumb to more heartbreak and pain.
I believe Nelson’s play fits both under “corrupting” and “uplifting” in interchangeable ways. “Corrupting” in the sense that we see just how mournful life can be. “Uplifting” is the facade that Nelson played upon at the end of her play.