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This book has some of the strengths, some of the weaknesses that characterized Gentleman's Agreement. The strengths lie in the convincing and often moving portrait of tensions motivating the Negro psychology in the deep south, as Negroes of the superior educational level face the growing strains of hates and fears in both whites and Negroes, the frustrations met on every side in attempts to stem the tide, to win advances for their people. The weaknesses lie in the evasions of issues -- authentic and perhaps inevitable, but unsatisfactory. A Negro family, -- Estelle, the widowed mother, uneducated but a fine type; Luther, the son, who had given up his own opportunities to carry the family load and send his sisters to college; Alberta, the eldest, who is meeting failures of a different sort in the blocks of Harlem; Bessie, secretary to a President of a Negro college, who finds her answer in marriage to a liberal professor, Eric, -- these are the central figures of a drama in which each seeks an answer to the problem of Negro dependence on the whites. It is a good story, but the finale seems a let-down after the mounting sense of impending crisis. Eric is forced out of his job, because of having raised the issue of race in his criticism of the Hiroshima bombing. The college president builds up his determination to resign on that issue -- and weakens at the end. Luther finds some measure of achievement in the labor union at the shipbuilding yard, and in breaking the bond of dependence on the white man who had been his lifelong friend. George, veteran son of the college president, seeks his answer in organization work with the G.I.O. in Washington... The novel should bring home the human and social issues in a problem we are too apt to wish to feel is largely economic. Caution on distribution in the South -- where it should be read before being sold or loaned, as little tribute is paid even to the rare gesture of white courage in the face of majority opinion. George Washington Carver award.

Pub Date: April 7th, 1949
Publisher: Doubleday