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Black No More : A Novel (Modern Library Paperbacks) Paperback – June 29, 1999

4.4 out of 5 stars 35 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com Review

This satirical Harlem Renaissance-era novel by black conservative intellectual George S. Schuyler (1895-1977), who wrote for the Pittsburgh Courier and contributed to the NAACP's influential Crisis magazine, is a hilariously insightful treatise on the absurdities of racial identity. Dr. Junius Crookman, a Harlem-based African American physician, mysteriously returns from Germany with a formula that can transform black people into whites. "It looked," Schuyler deadpans, "as though science was to succeed where the Civil War failed." One of the first to enlist Dr. Crookman's services is an insurance salesman named Max Disher, who as the white Matthew Fisher is now free to pursue the white women who once rejected him and otherwise bask in Euro-American social privilege (including a top position in a hate group called the Knights of Nordica). Schuyler unveils the futility of this electro-chemical form of "passing" through the emptiness the Disher/Fisher character encounters in the white cultural world, which doesn't measure up to the Harlem nightlife--revealing the poison behind the notion of wanting to be something you're not. --Eugene Holley Jr.

From Kirkus Reviews

37575380.X99 Schuyler, George BLACK NO MORE First published in 1931, this scathing satire on race embodies all the controversial notions of its author, the grouchy journalist and essayist Schuyler, a kindred spirit of his mentor and fellow misanthrope, H.L. Mencken. Best know for his dissenting essay, The Negro-Art Hokum, Schuyler (1895-1977) mocked most of the more prominent representatives of the Harlem Renaissance, and asks in this rollicking bit of speculative fiction: What if black people could change themselves to white? Inspired by popular products for skin-lightening, Schuyler imagines the discovery of a process that transforms Negroes into white people, and then watches all hell break loose. When Dr. Junius Crookman promises a three-day makeover, Max Disher, a dapper insurance agent with a taste for yallah gals, thinks of one thingall the ofay girls he can now pursue, especially a snobby cracker who snubbed him in a Harlem night club. For fifty bucks, Max is one of Crookmans first patients and emerges from his Frankenstein-like office with his new pork-colored skin. But Maxs glorious new adventure turns ugly right away: his old friends reject him; his landlady accuses him of no race pride, and worsehe finds white people less courteous and less interesting. The country too grows increasingly hysterical: the South calls for congressional action, and the infrastructure of Negro philanthropy begins to crumble. Scuyler smartly postulates the response of official black leadership, and saves his most damning portraits for characters who represent Garvey, DuBois, and Booker T., all of whom ultimately give in to the new process. Maxs dilemma is simpler: he tries to figure out a way to capitalize off his new identity, and soon becomes the right hand man to the Rev. Givens, the grand poobah of the Knights of Nordica, and eventually marries his daughter, the very same girl from that night in Harlem. One problem remains, the whitening process doesnt pass to babies, so Max lives with the fear that his offspring will be his undoing. Not to worry, though, for events overwhelm all in this increasingly outrageous novel. As the hypocrisies mount, and the number of Negroes diminish, calls for racial purity increase. But the frantic researches into genealogy have an unintended resultand one that Schuyler himself constantly arguedthat most white people have dusky ancestors, or as the Rev. Givens so aptly puts it, I guess were all niggers now. Schuylers miscegenetic ideas on race fuel this well-written look at chromatic democracy, a novel that prefigures both Ray Bradbury and Ralph Ellison. This wild book is much more than an historical curiosity, and its resurrection is a revelation. -- Copyright ©1999, Kirkus Associates, LP. All rights reserved.
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Product Details

  • Series: Modern Library Paperbacks
  • Paperback: 208 pages
  • Publisher: Modern Library; New edition edition (June 29, 1999)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 037575380X
  • ISBN-13: 978-0375753800
  • Product Dimensions: 5.4 x 0.7 x 8.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 7.2 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (35 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #456,291 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

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Format: Paperback
George Schuyler's (1895-1977) novel, Black No More, is a deliciously wicked satire on 1920s American racial mores. First published in 1931, it was initially reissued during the late 1980s as part of The Northeastern Library of Black Literature.
Like many satires, Black No More takes a common, controversial idea, gives it form in flesh and blood, and plays it out to its logical conclusion: "What if white America didn't have any more negroes to kick around?"
This idea is realized by "Dr. Junius Crookman" (most of the characters have similarly "subtle" names), who invents an operation for turning black folks white. In lightning speed, the nation becomes monochromatic, as its entire black population "disappears."
No lack of comic -- and dramatic -- complications ensue, when it becomes clear that the operation doesn't change the genetic program for the pigmentation of one's offspring.
George Schuyler worked from a few basic premises: Most of humanity is a damned sight closer to the Devil than to the angels; most men are con artists; and the few who truly believe in anything are even worse!
For Schuyler, W.E.B. DuBois' (1868-1963) "talented tenth" of bourgeois negro society was of no more help to the average black than were the leaders of the racist, white order. Indeed, Schuyler saw those who made a living railing against Jim Crow as having the strongest interest in its preservation: every lynching brought in more money from rich, white reformers.
Thinly veiled caricatures portray DuBois ("Dr. Shakespeare Agamemnon Beard") as a hypocrite, and Marcus Garvey (1887-1940; "Santop Licorice"), the founder of the "Back-to-Africa" movement, as a common swindler (for which Garvey was, in fact, convicted in 1920, and deported in 1924).
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In my search for quality books written by black writers, I stumbled upon BLACK NO MORE and I am so glad that I did. This is a relatively small book, but probably one of the most thought provoking books that I've ever read. It forces you to look at the power of racisim in all of its incarnations, whether it is being imposed on black people from white people or if it is imposed on blacks from their own people. I think that George Schuyler is one of the most unsung heroes of African American literature and all people (especially Black people) should find the time to read his work. I'm currently purchasing anything I can find that he has written.
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Format: Paperback
Although largely forgotten today, George Schuyler was probably the foremost black journalist of the early 20th Century. No doubt much of his modern-day intellectual exile is due to Schuyler's politics. While the rest of black America lurched left, Schuyler published his autobiography, BLACK AND CONSERVATIVE, the title of which says it all. Combine that with Schuyler's noted attack on Malcolm X and, more infamously, his scathing criticism of Martin Luther King, Jr., and Schuyler's alienation became complete. Too bad for the rest of us, as his writing is often quite delicious.

Schuyler occasionally ventured into fiction and BLACK NO MORE is probably the best known of such works. Although the book is often described as science fiction, that label is a tad misleading. It is an extremely entertaining social critique of the American obsession with race and skin color and is packed with the same race hustlers, con artists, demagogues and hypocrites we still see today. I guess the more things change, the more they really do stay the same.

Dr. Junius Crookman (great name, huh?) develops the technology to turn black people white. The first to sign on, Max Disher, uses his new found whiteness to woo the white ladies who would have nothing to do with him before and, hilariously, climb the ladder of a white supremacist hate group. He does not do this out of any desire to pull a fast one on The Man, but rather sees it as the fast track to making a quick buck.

White supremacists are not Schuyler's only target, however. The black advancement organization, clearly modeled on the NAACP, is deeply alarmed - deeply - that soon there will be no more oppressed negroes whose woes will fill the group's coffers and allow its leadership to dine on foie gras.
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Schuyler's Dedication

"This book is dedicated to all Caucasians in the great republic who can trace their ancestry back ten generations and confidentially assert that there are no black leaves, twigs, limbs or branches on their family tree."

The book is hilarious and tells many truths. Here are some of the truths:

Blacks being color struck:

The two had in common a weakness rather prevalent among AfraAmercan bucks: they preferred yellow women. Both swore here were three things essential to the happiness of a colored gentleman: yellow money, yellow women, and yellow taxis. It was so hard to hold them. They were so sought after that one almost required a million dollars to keep them out of the clutches of one's rivals.

Black Conservatives:

Colonel Roberts was the acknowledged leader of the conservative Negroes (most of who had nothing to conserve) who felt at all times that the white folks were in the lead and that Negroes should be careful to guide themselves accordingly.

Black folk supporting black businesses:

Mr. Spelling had for many years been the leading advocate of the strange doctrine that an underpaid Negro worker should go out of his way to patronize a little dingy Negro store instead of going to a cheaper and cleaner store, all for the dubious satisfaction of helping Negro merchants grow wealthy.

The Marcus Garvey character:

Mr. Licorice for some fifteen years had been very profitable advocating the emigration of all the American Negroes to Africa. He had not, of course, gone there himself and had not the slightest intention of going so far from the fleshpots, but he told the other Negroes go.
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