A young black man’s education at Yale turns him into a ’60s radical.
Daniel Kirkland, polite, ambitious, and brilliant, landed a full scholarship to Yale, which he left without bothering to tell his mother. Grace Kirkland, a Chicago schoolteacher distressed over not hearing from him for six months, asks her friend p.i. Bill Grimshaw for help. Bill left his identity as Smokey Dalton back in Memphis when he hightailed it out of there with ten-year-old Jimmy, who witnessed the real murderer of Dr. King. He’s been edgy in Chicago, finding it gang-heavy and deadly (Stone Cribs, 2004, etc.), and is willing to look for Daniel. With Jimmy and Malcolm, a streetwise teenager helping with kid care, he starts the odyssey to New Haven, stopping at restaurants and motels that are “colored” friendly and avoiding trouble spots like rioting Philadelphia. At Yale, elitist administrators tut-tut that Daniel and Yale were simply not a good match: he was a troublemaker lobbying for black studies and higher black admissions, and he almost killed another student. But where is Daniel now? In response to being frozen out of Yale’s all-white, old-boy hierarchy, is he advocating violent overthrow of the social structure?
A ruthlessly unsentimental look at the ’60s that shows just how ugly and destructive racial assumptions were. Nelscott bears witness to black persecution the way Elie Wiesel bears witness to the Holocaust.