The poem "I Am Ready to Tell All I Know" by Minnie Bruce Pratt is structured as a dramatic interaction between mother and son. It is told from the point of view of the mother, who is the one who offers to tell all she knows. This title alone creates in the reader a sense of a revelation about to take place, and the rest of the poem indicates that this revelation is one that both specific to a given situation and generalized to parent-child relationships everywhere. The specific situation is of a child from the South going to school in the North and learning of a history that has been kept from him, a history that his mother is now ready top reveal. It is a history of racial injustice and murder, and the young man is surprised to learn of it in school and to learn that his mother has known of this and not told him. The mother for her part is ready to tell all she knows, ready because she has come to realize that all young people are linked just as all parents are linked--how would she feel if the young man hung by a mob were her child?
The poet guides the reader to an understanding of why the mother is ready to tell all she knows and to what it is that she knows. The dilemma is brought forth in the first stanza as the young man refers to what he has learned of southern history and to the terrible things that have happened there--it is clear that he never heard these things before and that he is in some distress about them. The mother speaks "From the South," and it is clear that she has some complicity in these events by her silence:
I am ready to tell more. I am ready to
The boy is not ready to hear--he is upset by what he has heard so far and could not concentrate on his other subjects if he knew more now. She says her love had earlier inverted history, meaning she protected him from the truth and so lost him at the same time, something that concerns her now so that she is ready to confess.
The dramatic sit...