Primer for White Folks
$3.50 Edited by DOUBLEDAY, DORAN
Primer for White Folks is not a book for “white folks" alone. It should be read by all thinking people. At first the title seems impertinent, even condescending, but inside the covers appear the words of James Farrell, Margaret Halsey. Sterling Brown, Carey McWilliams, Lillian Smith, Richard Wright, Dorothy Parker, and even the editors of Fortune and the New Republic. These names bespeak the quality and sincerity of this compilation.
The Primer is divided into three parts. The first part (“ Heritage ”) sings of the American Negro’s past. Part III (“Today and tomorrow ”) deals with present - day events and problems.
Part II (“ Black and White Mores ”) is the artistic reflection, in the form of short stories, of these other two parts. It is a slice of Americana, and a very crusty, sometimes unbeautiful slice at that. The stories have quality, charm, and stabbing reality, and some, like “After You, My Dear Alphonse,” by Shirley Jackson, and “Trouble Keeping Quiet,” by Leonard Wallace Robinson, reach a dignity and a plane of “differentness” that is rare in fiction about Negroes.
These pieces form a mirror in which one may see the varying shades of a sickness that pervades our society as well as the sickness that has fallen upon Negroes because of their immersion in it. They show a social condition which should elicit protest and a desire for change, even though, with the removal of the condition, such vignettes of American life will inevitably disappear from our representative literature.
The book could be improved by short introductions to each of the three parts. Mr. Moon has done an excellent and knowing job in selecting the material for this book. He has made a symphonic arrangement of the various pieces, on the theme that the destiny of America is not separate or disparate from the future of this one tenth of her population. One is made aware that there is neither a “white problem” nor a “Negro problem”: there is a problem whose name is American Democracy and we are all — black and white — involved in it.
JOHN CASWELL SMITH, JR.