LOUISIANA BLACK by Samuel Charters


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Frank Lewis is a middle-aged Bridgeport, New Jersey, clerk not at all interested in any large issues connected with the fact that he is black. But in a black-history book intended as a birthday present for his 18-year-old son, he finds a haunting picture of a 1937 lynching in Louisiana. The hanging, bloodied corpse is, he learns, his own father. Frank's burning, relentless search for his own roots in what was once the harshly segregated American South is to be his education as a Louisiana black. Charters has written ten volumes of music history, most of them about jazz and the blues, as well as books of poetry and criticism and two novels, Mr. Jabi and Mr. Smythe and Jelly Roll Morton's Last Night at the Jungle Inn. Here. although the novel is fundamentally a carefully drawn-out short story without complications outside the central plot, the contemporary South, with all the deep shifts in custom and attitude that have occurred since the lynch-stained 30's, is beautifully evoked. Frank's formless terrors, part imagined, part half. knoWn from family tales, are real. And the clash of his determination to uncover the truth about his father's brutal murder with the confused defensiveness of those who might know that truth is convincingly nightmarish. What his Black Power brother Jimmy can never tell him, and what his white girlfriend, Inez, can never help him to know he has to find out in Louisiana for himself and by himself. A rich, and frightening story of a contemporary black sensibility trying to repossess a bloodied family history.

Pub Date: Sept. 1st, 1986
Publisher: Marion Boyars--dist. by Scribners