Black No More
When everyone around him was lauding the Harlem Renaissance's achievements, black outsider intellectual George Schuyler penned a notoriously hilarious novel about a solution to America's race problem. A recent reprinting now makes this hard-to-find title available.
Black No More follows Max Disher, a rakish insurance agent who becomes the first African-American to undergo Dr.Crookmore's "black-no-more" treatment—transforming Negroes into Nordic-looking individuals with pale hair, light eyes, fine features, and a skin that is whiter than most whites. Before long all of America is white, and Schulyer explores every repercussion.
Schuyler's inventive intelligence is matched by his trenchant wit. The satirical romp takes on ignorance and racial essentialism in its many forms. What would America be like if all the blacks looked white, and what kind of attitudes would this frustrate and reveal? Max Disher, for example, leads the white supremacist Knights of Nordica to national prominence, simply because he saw it as the easiest way to make a buck.
When the blacks began to depart, officials from a loosely veiled mock-up of the N.A.A.C.P. "began to envision a time when they would no longer be able for the sake of the Negro race to suffer the hardships of lunching on canvasback duck at the Urban Club surrounded by the white dilettante, endure the perils of first-class Transatlantic passage to stage Save-Dear-Africa Conferences..." Workers threatening to unionize (now that antagonist competition against the black underclass no longer distracts them from their exploitation) are thwarted by Disher's savvy race-baiting with witch-hunt insinuations of blackness. The conclusion crescendoes with hilarious flair.
Schuyler's fantastic (literally and figuratively) prose is ahead of its time. He's literary grandfather to such authors such as Ralph Ellison, Ishmael Reed, and Paul Beatty, and Black No More is his finest work.