NOT LIKE NIGGERS by Edward G. Williams


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Everything is wrong with Not Like Niggers except the raw strength of its material. Like the ""nigger"" neighbors Mama scorns, sitting on their stoops minding everybody's business and neglecting their own, the reader watches in horrified fascination as she rails at Papa for past or fancied wrongs, belittles him and badgers him and finally drives him off; as Papa, a quiet, understanding plugger, fails to stand up to her; as both fail the children and Harvey, the intelligent, perceptive eldest, becomes the family bulwark. Cast as narrator is little Brad, five to seven here, but his is not the voice or the vision of a child, and only to a declining degree is this his story. Structurally the book is a sprawl--developments occur almost spontaneously, crises evaporate without explanation, climaxes and characters come and go. And what might have looked proper, even true, in 1934 when this is set, seems a sterile, abnegating basis on which to build today: ""It was just as mother said. They were niggers and they would never understand that the only way to get anything in this world was to plan and work for it. Harvey said the same thing. . . . That was why I didn't like Negroes. They didn't do anything at all and most of them didn't even try. That was what I liked about the white people I had met, why I wanted to be like them, why I would."" The black author, in creating Harvey, gave him the wherewithal to show Brad a greater goal than a colonnaded house on a hill. Up to this final failure what the book lacked as fiction hit home as life.

Pub Date: Oct. 6th, 1969
Publisher: St. Martin's Press