Black No More by George S. Schuyler
I noticed that I haven’t completed an actual book review in quite some time. Honestly, I never even picked up all the books I wanted to read over Christmas break. Such a shame, huh? But this Christmas break laziness has taken a lasting hold on me. This laziness has forced me to decide that, no, I won’t review the books that I read last semester. Certainly, most of them deserve it, especially the ones I had to provide presentations on. Again, my excuse? Besides being lazy, I have at least 20 books lined up for the upcoming semester–and that doesn’t even include the additional articles! My mind needs a final minute to relax. Or maybe not.
Well, since I’m still in lazy mode . . . here’s my lazy review. It is not detailed at all . . . I guess its more of a cut and paste type thing (or copy and type). It isn’t even a review at all, it’s just excerpts and bio information. Oh well. Maybe somebody will learn something or find the information useful.
“This book is dedicated to all Caucasians in the great republic who can trace their ancestry back ten generations and confidently assert that there are no Black leaves, twigs, limps or branches on their family trees.” – George S. Schyler
George S. Schuyler’s (pronounced sky-ler) Bio: Schuyler was a tireless worker with an intellect invigorated by books, ideas, and learning. Born in Providence, R.I., then raised in Syracuse, N.Y., his father died when he was three, and his mother remarried a cook and porter for the New York Central Railroad. His mother taught him to read and write before he entered grade school. From the beginning, he was a bookworm. In 1912 Schuyler dropped out of school and joined the army, where he served in Seattle and Hawaii. After his discharge in 1919, Schuyler moved to New York City and then back to Syracuse. There he did part-time odd jobs, which left him time to read. It was around then that Schuyler became interested in socialism. It’s important to emphasize that he was interested — not enamored, bedazzled, or swept off his feet. The biographical notices on Schuyler don’t often make this distinction. Schuyler was an intellect who would travel miles simply to kick around ideas with other intellectuals, and after 1917 the exciting, if insane, ideas that were percolating were socialist ideas.
In 1922 Schuyler returned to New York City. He buried himself in the New York Times, the Nation, the New Republic, and the socialist newspaper the Call, and he soon became involved with the black socialist group Friends of Negro Freedom, led by A. Philip Randolph and Chandler Owen. Schuyler got a job as an assistant at the Messenger, the journal of the organization. He soon began writing a monthly column, “Shafts and Darts: A Page of Calumny and Satire.” His writing caught the eye of Ira F. Lewis, the manager of the Pittsburgh Courier, the black weekly with the second largest circulation in the country. In 1924 Schuyler began to write a column for the Courier for three dollars a week. He would become associate editor and editor of the New York edition of the paper. His association would last until 1966, when the paper unceremoniously disassociated itself with Schuyler following his criticism of Martin Luther King. (Read more…)
Book: Black No More
Publisher: Modern Library Harlem Renaissance (1999 edition)
Original Publication: 1931
Opening Paragraph: Max Disher stood outside the Honky Tonk Club puffing a panatela and watching the crowds of white and black folk entering the cabaret. Max was tall, dapper and smooth coffee-brown. His negroid features had a slightly satanic cast and there was an insolent nonchalance about his carriage. He wore his hat rakishly and faultless evening clothes underneath his raccoon coat. He was young, he wasn’t broke, but he was damnably blue. It was New Year’s Even 1933, but there was no spirit of gaiety and gladness in his heart. How could he share the hilarity of the crowd when he had no girl? He and Minnie, his high “yallah” flapper, had quarreled that day and everything was over between them.
Reason book was selected: After locating a short story version of Black No More in one of my anthologies, I found myself intrigued enough to purchase the book.
Cover Art: If the title of the book is Black No More, why even bother to put a black person on the cover? It almost seems like the publisher lacked some necessary creativity. I guess when publishers are unsure of what to place on the cover of a black-authored book they just go with an image of a black person–body, face, whatever. While I like the second version of the cover (jazzy-looking black guy), again this image represents only the first few pages of novel. Again, it is still an image of a black person! The third cover is more accurate, but I can’t find a large version to really examine it.
Publisher’s Summary: What would happen to the race problem in America if black people turned white? Would everybody be happy? These questions and more are answered hilariously in Black No More, George S. Schuyler’s satiric romp. Black No More is the story of Max Disher, a dapper black rogue of an insurance man who, through a scientific transformation process, becomes Matthew Fisher, a white man. Matt dreams up a scam that allows him to become the leader of the Knights of Nordica, a white supremacist group, as well as to marry the white woman who rejected him when he was black. Black No More is a hysterical exploration of race and all its self-serving definitions. If you can’t beat them, turn into them.
Selected Excerpt: By this point in the text, a number of blacks have already altered their skin color. The following scene begins to outline how this change effects the community.
Meantime there was feverish activity in Harlem’s financial institutions. At the Douglas Bank the tellers were busier than bootleggers on Christmas Eve. Moreover, they were short-handed because of the mysterious absence of Bunny Brown. A long queue of Negroes extended down one side of the bank, out of the front door and around the corner, while bank attendants struggled to keep them in line. Everybody was drawing out money; no one was depositing. In vain the bank officials pleaded with them not to withdraw their funds. The Negroes were adamant: they wanted their money and wanted it quick. Day after day this had gone on ever since Black-No-More, Incorporated, had started turning Negroes white. At first, efforts were made to bulldoze and intimidate the depositors but that didn’t succeed. These people were in no mood to be trifled with. A lifetime of being Negroes in the United States had convinced them that there was a great advantage in being white [ . . . ]
The “For Rent” sings were appearing in larger number in Harlem than at any time in twenty-five years. Landlords looked on helplessly as apartment after apartment emptied and was not filled. Even the refusal to return deposits did not prevent the tenants from moving out. What, indeed, was fifty, sixty or seventy dollars where one was leaving behind insult, ostracism, segregation and discrimination? Moreover, the whitened Negroes were saving a great deal of money by being able to change localities. The mechanics of race prejudice had forced them into the congested Harlem area where, at the mercy of white and black real estate sharks, they had been compelled to pay exorbitant rentals because the demand for housing far exceeded the supply. As a general rule the Negroes were paying one hundred percent more than white tenants in other parts of the city for a smaller number of rooms and worse service.
The installment furniture and clothing houses in the area were also beginning to feel the results of the activities of Black-No-More, Incorporated. Collectors were reporting their inability to locate certain families or the articles they had purchased on time. Many of the colored folk, it was said, had sold their furniture to second-hand stores and vanished with the proceeds into the great mass of white citizenry.
At the same time there seemed to be more white people on the streets of Harlem than at any time in the past twenty years. Many of them appeared to be on the most intimate terms with the Negroes, laughing, talking, dining and dancing in a most un-Caucasian way. This sort of association had always gone on at night but seldom in the daylight. Strange Negroes from the West and South who had heard the good news were to be seen on the streets and in public places, patiently awaiting their turn at the Crookman Institute (37-8).
Read a Real Review: The Critical Critic
No final words. Happy reading ya’ll.