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[Southern Americana]: [Racism]: [Lynching]. THOMAS, Edwin M.

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New York: np, 1908. First Edition. 8vo. Yellow cloth with pasted-on plate to front board. Good plus, with soil and rubbing to boards; light soil & foxing to pages throughout, and several penciled notes to margins. Contains a frontispiece drawing by C.A. Morrissette. Former owner writes in ink to FFEP: "The most remarkable / book I ever read is this / volume [.]" Sound and presentable. 92pp. (Item ID: 21269)

A deeply troubling post-Reconstruction novel, containing a vivid, racist description of a lynching. The story follows the young Northern businessman Harvard Stringfellow, who moves to Birmingham with his father seeking investment in the Alabama Mineral and Manufacturing Company. Harvard takes over the company directorship from the aging owner Mr. Morgan, and soon falls in love with Morgan's daughter Louise. As director of the company, Stringfellow is met with a labor dispute by the factory's black workers, whom the narrator describes as "dissolute and worthless ... living a life of vagrancy, debauchery and crime." Harvard believes kinder treatment would remedy the workers' attitudes, but the foreman tries to convince Harvard that he "[understands] the negro better." The foreman soon resigns in frustration, and when Harvard tries to implement new policy (amounting merely to lecturing the workers on "industry and application") the result is more "undisciplined labor," presenting an object lesson in the author's conception of failed Northern reform. Harvard, losing all hope in solving "the negro labor problem," fires all workers and replaces them with immigrant Europeans. In a predictable turn of events, the Southern belle Louise (featured on the novel's cover) is attacked by a "burly negro" one night, leading the newly disillusioned Harvard to form a massive lynch mob of "fifty men and boys on horseback" to find the attacker. The narrator defends the necessity of lynching, as "even in the South," courts have been infiltrated by "the negro's friends... [cheating] justice" with bribes and perjury. A truly revolting and detailed account of the lynching follows, after which the story moves on, detailing Harvard and Louise's travels in New York: the former rides in a car-sized blimp, and the latter gets an expensive new form of plastic surgery. Overall an uncommonly racist novel, its violence rivaling and perhaps exceeding Thomas Dixon's contemporary Klan novels. And quite a scarce title; OCLC locates only four copies ó at Library of Congress, Ohio State, University of Alabama, and a Birmingham public library.


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