In the 1930s, a new “public works” project is proposed in Medallion, Ohio: a road that will connect the black neighborhood of the Bottom with some of the surrounding white communities. While it’s not explicitly stated, Morrison implies that this project is a product of Roosevelt’s New Deal, implying an agreement between the federal government and more overtly racist government agencies of the state of Ohio. It’s not until the end of Sula that the “New River Road” is shown for what it really is. More than a decade after the road was proposed, it’s still not finished. Whenever the local authorities deny healthcare to the blacks in the Bottom, or charge extra rent, the stated reason is always the same: it’s a sacrifice, necessary for the completion of the road, which will benefit everyone—including the black people in the Bottom—equally. But when the residents of the Bottom march to the New River Road, they see the reality of it: a dirty pile of bricks that will never be finished. In all, the road is a tragic symbol of the deception and manipulation that American authorities have used to prolong black suffering.
The New River Road Quotes in Sula
"I built that road," he could say. How much better sundown would be than the end of a day in the restaurant, where a good day's work was marked by the number of dirty plates and the weight of the garbage bin. "I built that road." People would walk over his sweat for years. Perhaps a sledge hammer would come crashing down on his foot, and when people asked him how come he limped, he could say, "Got that building the New Road."
It dazzled them, at first, and they were suddenly quiet. Their hooded eyes swept over the place where their hope had lain since 1927. There was the promise: leaf-dead. The teeth unrepaired, the coal credit cut off, the chest pains unattended, the school shoes unbought, the rush-stuffed mattresses, the broken toilets, the leaning porches, the slurred remarks and the staggering childish malevolence of their employers. All there in blazing sunlit ice rapidly becoming water.