The Lesson (short story)

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"The Lesson" is a short story by Toni Cade Bambara (1938–1995). It was first published in 1972.[1]

The Lesson” is a first person narrative told by a young, poor, black girl growing up in Harlem in an unspecified time period known only as “Back in the days when everyone was old and stupid or young and foolish and me and Sugar were the only ones just right” (Bambara, 1992). Going by the prices, one can assume it was sometime in the early seventies. The story is about a trip initiated by a local woman who, being the only educated person in the neighborhood, has taken it upon herself to expose the unappreciative children of the neighborhood to the world outside of their oppressed community. The destination is FAO Schwartz in Manhattan, where the toys of white children cost more than all of the children’s household yearly incomes combined. The lesson is almost lost on the children, who, too contemptuous to open themselves up to the education offered them by the well-intended Miss Moore, close the story by making plans to spend the left over cab fare change they stole from Miss Moore. At the last second Sylvia turns on her friend and goes off alone to contemplate the events of the day. She has found a way to direct her anger and spouts "ain't nobody gonna beat me at nothin."


  1. ^ Wright, Richard (2011). The Man Who Was Almost a Man. Bedford/ St. Martin’s. p. 883. 
  • Friedman, Joe. "Review of Toni Cade Bambara's "The Lesson". HubPages.HubPages Inc. 2011. Web. 24 Oct. 2011.
  • Short Stories for Students. "The Lesson". Book Rags. Gale Group. 2000-07. Web. 24 Oct. 2011.
  • Wright, Richard. “The Man Who Was Almost a Man.” The Story and Its Writer. Ed. Ann Charters. Compact 8th ed. Boston: Bedford/St. Martin’s, 2011. 878-87. Print.