Sippi

John Oliver Killens, Author Thunder's Mouth Press $19.95 (434p) ISBN 978-0-938410-54-6
In this impressive testament to the civil rights movement, originally published in 1967 and long out of print, Killens (d. 1987) recreates the cultural mores, caste stratifications, racially-linked sexual compulsions and brutal repressiveness of a backwater, bigoted Southern county in the 1950s and '60s. The story begins in 1954 as a jubilant Jesse Chaney, black sharecropper, comically confronts his comrade and benefactor Charles Wakefield, a rich, white Mississippi plantation owner and so-called ``friend of the Negro,'' when Jesse learns that the Supreme Court has struck down the ``separate-but-equal'' doctrine. Jesse wants to address ``Mister Charlie'' as Charles and to use the front door, and an angry Wakefield calls him ``nigger.'' With humor, irony and complexity, Killens delineates how, in the Old South, whites and blacks formed relationships based on a foundation of vacuous sentimentality while their every encounter was riddled with black emasculation and white self-delusion. Killens (And Then We Heard the Thunder, etc.) depicts a time when the effort to register to vote became, for black and white, an existential act fraught with imminent death and unlimited possibility. (June)
Reviewed on: 01/01/1988
Release date: 01/01/1988
Paperback - 434 pages - 978-0-938410-55-3
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