THIS IS MY COUNTRY TOO by John A. Williams


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In 1963 the novelist John A. Williams toured America on a Holiday assignment. Being a Negro he was sent out to test the winds of change. He traveled in a white station wagon, driving from New York to the Deep South, then through the Midwest to California and back. Just about everywhere he encountered some form of prejudice, some bit of ""liberal"" disingenuousness. At hotels or motels, the service was slow or grumpy or deliberately offensive, and when it wasn't, when he was treated as an ""equal,"" Williams found it difficult to respond accordingly. He spoke with sympathetic editors or educators, visited a North Dakota air base or industrial plant, more than once on the highways he was followed by suspicious patrol cars, and in Wyoming his credit card was covertly checked. Williams writes with considerable naturalistic fluency, heightened by panoramic mood-pieces, telling vignettes. He is especially good describing the reactions to the Kennedy assassination, the Washington Civil Rights March, etc. He is expert with dialogue: the tone of mingled defeat and fury in Negroes, of uneasiness in whites. Yet his work is too personal as Journalism, much too impressionistic as sociology. Basically what he presents is a writer's diary, with a writer's special subjectivity, his sense of the dramatic. It is a moving book, but a failure as a documentary study.

Pub Date: May 18th, 1965
Publisher: New American Library