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A sentence, from The Fire Next Time by James Baldwin (1962), page 59:

The real reason that nonviolence is considered to be a virtue in Negroes--I am not speaking now of its racial value, another matter altogether--is that white men do not want their lives, their self-image, or their property threatened.

Does "that nonviolence is considered to be a virtue in Negroes" serve as adjective clause or appositive clause?

  • 3
    Neither, to my mind: it is a complement to the reason. – StoneyB Sep 10 '14 at 1:25
1

This sentence feels cluttered and hard to read. Allow me to rephrase for clarity.

The real reason nonviolence is considered to be a virtue in Negroes: white men do not want their lives, self-image, or property threatened.

When you take out the cluttered "that" and "their" it simplifies analysis. Remember that adjective and appositive clauses give extra unnecessary information. Lets test by taking this out.

The real reason: white men do not want their lives, self-image, or property threatened.

Taken out of context, the reader doesn't know anything about the "real reason." Lets reformat again.

White men do not want their lives, self-image, or property threatened, and so nonviolence is considered a virtue in Negroes.

It is clear now that these are two separate ideas being connected for analysis. No unnecessary information is being given, and no adjective or appositive clause exists.

If you absolutely must use the word "reason" in the sentence (which I consider redundant),

White men do not want their lives, self-image, or property threatened, and this is the real reason nonviolence is considered a virtue in Negroes.

TL;DR The sentence is cluttered with unnecessary words to connect two ideas. The content of the sentence is best stated in two independent clauses.

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It's a subordinate clause modifying reason. The word that functions as a subordinating conjunction, introducing the clause.

The reason that clause is a common construction in English. Here are a couple simple, ordinary examples:

The reason that I called is to ask you to dinner.

The reason that cats rub against your leg is because they're asking for food.

The subordinating conjunction that is often omitted when the meaning is clear:

The reason I called is to ask you to dinner.

The reason cats rub against your leg is that they're asking for food.

The reason cats rub against your leg is they're asking for food.

The reason that means the same as the reason why:

The reason why cats rub against your leg is to ask for food.

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As the others have mentioned, the sentence is verbose. Moreover, it uses a passive construction "violence is considered...". By whom? Here is how it might be rewritten (not that I agree with the sentiment):

White men call the nonviolent Black man virtuous not because they themselves are peace-loving men but because they see a violent Black man as a threat to their lives, their self-images, and their property.

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