Lawd Today. Richard Wright. Anthony Blond. 21s.
This posthumous novel is a scream of despair for the American Negro of the north, who, having fled from the tyranny of the South, embraces the White Anglo-Saxon Protestant ideology to his own diminution.
The time is 24 hours in the life of Jake, fled from Mississippi, and one of the lucky few with a job in the Chicago post office of the Depression 30’s. The day is Lincoln’s birthday and he weaves his Bloom-like way through the Negro ghetto against a Dos Passos background of radio professors reconstructing the Civil War and newspaper headlines shrieking of lynchings in the south and bedlam in Europe.
He is a wife-beater, a lecher, a drinker, a gambler. He is a Republican and an admirer of the Morgans, Rockefellers and Fords. ‘Why them men owns and runs the country!’ His heroes are the big-time gangsters in sporty clothes and long automobiles. And as for Hitler: ‘That’s what’s wrong with this country, too many Jews, Dagos, Hunkies and Mexicans. We coloured people would be much better off if they had kept them rascals out.’ He and his friends dream of the day when the Black race will regain its former supremacy. ‘Lawd today!’
But this picture of the American Negro is now 30 years old. Perhaps the militancy of the new generation, which is more determined today to escape the white man’s trap, might have mollified Wright.