When Charles Quinlan, an academic obsessed with jazz, starts exploring the life and death of Jackson Payne, a fictional tenor-sax player, he can't imagine where his research will lead. Told in a series of dazzling riffs by everyone from Payne's lovers to his fellow musicians, The Best of Jackson Payne is a novel that swings unlike any other.
The majority of African American children live in homes without their fathers, but the proportion of African American children living in intact, two-parent families has risen significantly since 1995. Black Fathers in Contemporary American Society looks at father absence from two sides, offering an in-depth analysis of how the absence of African American fathers affects their children, their relationships, and society as a whole, while countering the notion that father absence and family fragmentation within the African American community is inevitable. Editors Obie Clayton, Ronald B. Mincy, and David Blankenhorn lead a diverse group of contributors encompassing a range of disciplines and ideological perspectives who all agree that father absence among black families is one of the most pressing social problems today. In part I, the contributors offer possible explanations for the decline in marriage among African American families. William Julius Wilson believes that many men who live in the inner city no longer consider marriage an option because their limited economic prospects do not enable them to provide for a family. Part II considers marriage from an economic perspective, emphasizing that it is in part a wealth-producing institution. Maggie Gallagher points out that married people earn, invest, and save more than single people, and that when marriage rates are low in a community, it is the children who suffer most. In part III, the contributors discuss policies to reduce absentee fatherhood. Wornie Reed demonstrates how public health interventions, such as personal development workshops and work-related skill-building services, can be used to address the causes of fatherlessness. Wade Horn illustrates the positive results achieved by fatherhood programs, especially when held early in a man's life. In the last chapter, Enola Aird notes that from 1995 to 2000, the proportion of African American children living in two-parent, married couple homes rose from 34.8 to 38.9 percent; a significant increase indicating the possible reversal of the long-term shift toward black family fragmentation. Black Fathers in Contemporary American Society provides an in-depth look at a problem affecting millions of children while offering proof that the trend of father absence is not irrevocable.
From Frederick Douglass to the present, the preoccupation of black writers with manhood and masculinity is a constant. Black Manhood in James Baldwin, Ernest J. Gaines, and August Wilson explores how in their own work three major African American writers contest classic portrayals of black men in earlier literature, from slave narratives through the great novels of Richard Wright and Ralph Ellison.
Keith Clark examines short stories, novels, and plays by Baldwin, Gaines, and Wilson, arguing that since the 1950s the three have interrupted and radically dismantled the constricting literary depictions of black men who equate selfhood with victimization, isolation, and patriarchy. Instead, they have reimagined black men whose identity is grounded in community, camaraderie, and intimacy.
Delivering original and startling insights, this book will appeal to scholars and students of African American literature, gender studies, and narratology.
This book explores key texts of the black gay culture of the 1980s and ’90s. Starting with an analysis of the political discourse in anthologies such as In the Life and Brother to Brother, it identifies the references to the Harlem Renaissance and the Protest Era as common elements of black gay discourse. This connection to African American cultural and political traditions legitimizes black gay identity and criticizes the construction of gay identity as white. Readings of Isaac Julien’s Looking for Langston, Samuel R. Delany’s “Atlantis: Model 1924” and The Motion of Light in Water, Melvin Dixon’s Vanishing Rooms, Randall Kenan’s A Visitation of Spirits, and Steven Corbin’s No Easy Place to Be demonstrate how these strategies of signifying are used in affirmative, humorous, and ironic ways.
In seven representative episodes of black masculine literary and cultural history—from the founding of the first African American Masonic lodge in 1775 to the 1990s choreographies of modern dance genius Bill T. Jones—Constructing the Black Masculine maps black men’s historical efforts to negotiate the frequently discordant relationship between blackness and maleness in the cultural logic of American identity. Maurice O. Wallace draws on an impressive variety of material to investigate the survivalist strategies employed by black men who have had to endure the disjunction between race and masculinity in American culture. Highlighting their chronic objectification under the gaze of white eyes, Wallace argues that black men suffer a social and representational crisis in being at once seen and unseen, fetish and phantasm, spectacle and shadow in the American racial imagination. Invisible and disregarded on one hand, black men, perceived as potential threats to society, simultaneously face the reality of hypervisibility and perpetual surveillance. Paying significant attention to the sociotechnologies of vision and image production over two centuries, Wallace shows how African American men—as soldiers, Freemasons, and romantic heroes—have sought both to realize the ideal image of the American masculine subject and to deconstruct it in expressive mediums like modern dance, photography, and theatre. Throughout, he draws on the experiences and theories of such notable figures as Frederick Douglass, W. E. B. Du Bois, Booker T. Washington, and James Baldwin.
While recruitment efforts toward men of color have increased at many colleges and universities, their retention and graduation rates still lag behind those of their white peers. Men of color, particularly black and Latino men, face a number of unique challenges in their educational careers that often impact their presence on campus and inhibit their collegiate success. Empowering Men of Color on Campus examines how men of color negotiate college through their engagement in Brothers for United Success (B4US), an institutionally-based male-centered program at a Hispanic Serving Institution. Derrick R. Brooms, Jelisa Clark, and Matthew Smith introduce the concept of educational agency, which is harbored in cultural wealth and demonstrates how ongoing B4US engagement empowers the men’s efforts and abilities to persist in college. They found that the cultural wealth(s) of the community enhanced the students’ educational agency, which bolstered their academic aspirations, academic and social engagement, and personal development. The authors demonstrate how educational agency and cultural wealth can be developed and refined given salient and meaningful immersions, experiences, engagements, and communal connections.
The impact of absent fathers on sons in the black community has been a subject for cultural critics and sociologists who often deal in anonymous data. Yet many of those sons have themselves addressed the issue in autobiographical works that form the core of African American literature.
A Fatherless Child examines the impact of fatherlessness on racial and gender identity formation as seen in black men’s autobiographies and in other constructions of black fatherhood in fiction. Through these works, Tara T. Green investigates what comes of abandonment by a father and loss of a role model by probing a son’s understanding of his father’s struggles to define himself and the role of community in forming the son’s quest for self-definition in his father’s absence.
Closely examining four works—Langston Hughes’s The Big Sea, Richard Wright’s Black Boy, Malcolm X’s The Autobiography of Malcolm X, and Barack Obama’s Dreams from My Father—Green portrays the intersecting experiences of generations of black men during the twentieth century both before and after the Civil Rights movement. These four men recall feeling the pressure and responsibility of caring for their mothers, resisting public displays of care, and desiring a loving, noncontentious relationship with their fathers. Feeling vulnerable to forces they may have identified as detrimental to their status as black men, they use autobiography as a tool for healing, a way to confront that vulnerability and to claim a lost power associated with their lost fathers.
Through her analysis, Green emphasizes the role of community as a father-substitute in producing successful black men, the impact of fatherlessness on self-perceptions and relationships with women, and black men’s engagement with healing the pain of abandonment. She also looks at why these four men visited Africa to reclaim a cultural history and identity, showing how each developed a clearer understanding of himself as an American man of African descent.
A Fatherless Child conveys important lessons relevant to current debates regarding the status of African American families in the twenty-first century. By showing us four black men of different eras, Green asks readers to consider how much any child can heal from fatherlessness to construct a positive self-image—and shows that, contrary to popular perceptions, fatherlessness need not lead to certain failure.
This multilayered study of the representation of black masculinity in musical and cultural performance takes aim at the reduction of African American male culture to stereotypes of deviance, misogyny, and excess. Broadening the significance of hip-hop culture by linking it to other expressive forms within popular culture, Miles White examines how these representations have both encouraged the demonization of young black males in the United States and abroad and contributed to the construction of their identities.
From Jim Crow to Jay-Z traces black male representations to chattel slavery and American minstrelsy as early examples of fetishization and commodification of black male subjectivity. Continuing with diverse discussions including black action films, heavyweight prizefighting, Elvis Presley's performance of blackness, and white rappers such as Vanilla Ice and Eminem, White establishes a sophisticated framework for interpreting and critiquing black masculinity in hip-hop music and culture. Arguing that black music has undeniably shaped American popular culture and that hip-hop tropes have exerted a defining influence on young male aspirations and behavior, White draws a critical link between the body, musical sound, and the construction of identity.
Drawing from the work of top researchers in various fields, The Handbook of Research on Black Males explores the nuanced and multifaceted phenomena known as the black male. Simultaneously hyper-visible and invisible, black males around the globe are being investigated now more than ever before; however, many of the well-meaning responses regarding media attention paid to black males are not well informed by research. Additionally, not all black males are the same, and each of them have varying strengths and challenges, making one-size-fits-all perspectives unproductive. This text, which acts as a comprehensive tool that can serve as a resource to articulate and argue for policy change, suggest educational improvements, and advocate judicial reform, fills a large void. The contributors, from multidisciplinary backgrounds, focus on history, research trends, health, education, criminal and social justice, hip-hop, and programs and initiatives. This volume has the potential to influence the field of research on black males as well as improve lives for a population that is often the most celebrated in the media and simultaneously the least socially valued.
Imperium in Imperio
Sutton E. Griggs West Virginia University Press, 2022 Library of Congress PS3513.R7154I56 2022 | Dewey Decimal 813.52
A new critical edition of Sutton Griggs’s turn-of-the-twentieth-century novel, which continues to shed light on understandings of Black politics.
Sutton E. Griggs’s first novel, originally published in 1899, paints a searing picture of the violent enforcement of disfranchisement and Jim Crow racial segregation. Based on events of the time, including US imperial policies, revolutionary movements, and racial protests, Imperium in Imperio introduces the fictional Belton Piedmont and Bernard Belgrave as “future leaders of their race” and uses these characters to make sense of the violence that marked the dawn of the twentieth century. Taking on contemporary battles over separatism and integration, Griggs’s novel continues to play a crucial role in understandings of Black politics.
Edited and introduced by Tess Chakkalakal and Kenneth W. Warren, this new critical edition offers not only an incisive biographical and historical introduction to the novel and its author but also a wealth of references that make the events and characters of Griggs’s Imperium in Imperio, and its aftermath, accessible to readers today.
The Before Columbus Foundation 2018 Winner of the AMERICAN BOOK AWARD
Tommy J. Curry’s provocative book The Man-Not is a justification for Black Male Studies. He posits that we should conceptualize the Black male as a victim, oppressed by his sex. The Man-Not, therefore,is a corrective of sorts, offering a concept of Black males that could challenge the existing accounts of Black men and boys desiring the power of white men who oppress them that has been proliferated throughout academic research across disciplines.
Curry argues that Black men struggle with death and suicide, as well as abuse and rape, and their genred existence deserves study and theorization. This book offers intellectual, historical, sociological, and psychological evidence that the analysis of patriarchy offered by mainstream feminism (including Black feminism) does not yet fully understand the role that homoeroticism, sexual violence, and vulnerability play in the deaths and lives of Black males. Curry challenges how we think of and perceive the conditions that actually affect all Black males.
Demonstrates how concepts of masculinity shaped the aesthetic foundations of literary naturalism
A Man’s Game explores the development of American literary naturalism as it relates to definitions of manhood in many of the movement’s key texts and the aesthetic goals of writers such as Stephen Crane, Jack London, Frank Norris, Edith Wharton, Charles Chestnutt, and James Weldon Johnson. John Dudley argues that in the climate of the late 19th century, when these authors were penning their major works, literary endeavors were widely viewed as frivolous, the work of ladies for ladies, who comprised the vast majority of the dependable reading public. Male writers such as Crane and Norris defined themselves and their work in contrast to this perception of literature. Women like Wharton, on the other hand, wrote out of a skeptical or hostile reaction to the expectations of them as woman writers.
Dudley explores a number of social, historical, and cultural developments that catalyzed the masculine impulse underlying literary naturalism: the rise of spectator sports and masculine athleticism; the professional role of the journalist, adopted by many male writers, allowing them to camouflage their primary role as artist; and post-Darwinian interest in the sexual component of natural selection. A Man’s Game also explores the surprising adoption of a masculine literary naturalism by African American writers at the beginning of the 20th century, a strategy, despite naturalism's emphasis on heredity and genetic determinism, that helped define the black struggle for racial equality
Encamped within the limits of experience and "authenticity," critics today often stake out their positions according to race and ethnicity, sexuality and gender, and vigilantly guard the boundaries against any incursions into their privileged territory. In this book, Michael Awkward raids the borders of contemporary criticism to show how debilitating such "protectionist" stances can be and how much might be gained by crossing our cultural boundaries.
From Spike Lee's She's Gotta Have It to Michael Jackson's physical transmutations, from Toni Morrison's Song of Solomon to August Wilson's Fences, from male scholars' investments in feminism to white scholars' in black texts—Awkward explores cultural moments that challenge the exclusive critical authority of race and gender. In each instance he confronts the question: What do artists, scholars, and others concerned with representations of Afro-American life make of the view that gender, race, and sexuality circumscribe their own and others' lives and narratives? Throughout he demonstrates the perils and merits of the sort of "boundary crossing" this book ultimately makes: a black male feminism.
In pursuing a black male feminist criticism, Awkward's study acknowledges the complexities of interpretation in an age when a variety of powerful discourses have proliferated on the subject of racial, gendered, and sexual difference; at the same time, it identifies this proliferation as an opportunity to negotiate seemingly fixed cultural and critical positions.
The “invisible men” of sociologist Adia Harvey Wingfield’s urgent and timely No More Invisible Man are African American professionals who fall between extremely high status, high-profile black men and the urban underclass. Her compelling interview study considers middle-class, professional black men and the challenges, obstacles, and opportunities they encounter in white male–dominated occupations.
No More Invisible Man chronicles these men’s experiences as a tokenized minority in the workplace to show how issues of power and inequality exist—especially as they relate to promotion, mobility, and developing occupational networks. Wingfield’s intersectional analysis deftly charts the ways that gender, race, and class collectively shape black professional men’s work experiences.
In its examination of men’s interactions with women and other men, as well as men’s performances of masculinity and their emotional demeanors in these jobs, No More Invisible Man extends our understanding of racial- and gender-based dynamics in professional work.
Privilege and Prejudice is a stereotype-defying autobiography. It reveals a Black man whose good fortune in birth and heritage and opportunity of time and place helped him to forge breakthroughs in four separate careers. Clifton R. Wharton Jr. entered Harvard at age 16. The first Black student accepted to the School of Advanced International Studies at Johns Hopkins, he went on to receive a doctorate in economics from the University of Chicago—another first. For twenty-two years he promoted agricultural development in Latin America and Southeast Asia, earning a post as chairman of the Rockefeller Foundation. He again pioneered higher education firsts as president of Michigan State University and chancellor of the sixty-four-campus State University of New York system. As chairman and CEO of TIAA-CREF, he was the first Black CEO of a Fortune 500 company. His commitment to excellence culminated in his appointment as deputy secretary of state during the Clinton administration. A remarkable story of persistence and courage, Privilege and Prejudice also documents the challenges of competing in a society where obstacles, negative expectations, and stereotypical thinking remained stubbornly in place. An absorbing and candid narrative, it describes a most unusual childhood, a remarkable family, and a historic career.
Red, White, Black, and Blue began as a collaborative memoir by William M. “Bill” Drennen, a European American, and Kojo (William T.) Jones, an African American. These Appalachian men grew up in the South Hills section of Charleston, West Virginia. As boys they played on the same Little League baseball team and experienced just one year together as schoolmates after the all-white Thomas Jefferson Junior High School was desegregated in 1955. After that, class, race, and choice separated their life experiences for forty-five years.
In 1992 both had returned to Charleston from lives mostly lived elsewhere. They decided to work together on a memoir of growing up through the trauma of desegregation. Their aim was to foster understanding between their distinct cultures for themselves and for their own and future generations. Dolores Johnson, in editing the two texts, observed two very different modes of expression: Bill Drennen's narrative is threaded with references that connote wealth, status, and personal privilege; Kojo Jones's memoir is interwoven with African American signification, protest, and moral outrage.
The stories of their Appalachian upbringing in homes less than a mile apart are anecdotal in nature, but their diverse uses of the English language as they endeavor to communicate shared memories and common meanings reveal significant cultural connotations that transform standard American English into two different languages, rendering interracial communication problematic. Dr. Johnson's analysis is to the point.
Red, White, Black, and Blue is a groundbreaking approach to studying not only cultural linguistics but also the cultural heritage of a historic time and place in America. It gives witness to the issues of race and class inherent in the way we write, speak, and think.
In Skin Acts, Michelle Ann Stephens explores the work of four iconic twentieth-century black male performers—Bert Williams, Paul Robeson, Harry Belafonte, and Bob Marley—to reveal how racial and sexual difference is both marked by and experienced in the skin. She situates each figure within his cultural moment, examining his performance in the context of contemporary race relations and visual regimes. Drawing on Lacanian psychoanalysis and performance theory, Stephens contends that while black skin is subject to what Frantz Fanon called the epidermalizing and hardening effects of the gaze, it is in the flesh that other—intersubjective, pre-discursive, and sensuous—forms of knowing take place between artist and audience. Analyzing a wide range of visual, musical, and textual sources, Stephens shows that black subjectivity and performativity are structured by the tension between skin and flesh, sight and touch, difference and sameness.
Slaves to Fashion is a pioneering cultural history of the black dandy, from his emergence in Enlightenment England to his contemporary incarnations in the cosmopolitan art worlds of London and New York. It is populated by sartorial impresarios such as Julius Soubise, a freed slave who sometimes wore diamond-buckled, red-heeled shoes as he circulated through the social scene of eighteenth-century London, and Yinka Shonibare, a prominent Afro-British artist who not only styles himself as a fop but also creates ironic commentaries on black dandyism in his work. Interpreting performances and representations of black dandyism in particular cultural settings and literary and visual texts, Monica L. Miller emphasizes the importance of sartorial style to black identity formation in the Atlantic diaspora.
Dandyism was initially imposed on black men in eighteenth-century England, as the Atlantic slave trade and an emerging culture of conspicuous consumption generated a vogue in dandified black servants. “Luxury slaves” tweaked and reworked their uniforms, and were soon known for their sartorial novelty and sometimes flamboyant personalities. Tracing the history of the black dandy forward to contemporary celebrity incarnations such as Andre 3000 and Sean Combs, Miller explains how black people became arbiters of style and how they have historically used the dandy’s signature tools—clothing, gesture, and wit—to break down limiting identity markers and propose new ways of fashioning political and social possibility in the black Atlantic world. With an aplomb worthy of her iconographic subject, she considers the black dandy in relation to nineteenth-century American literature and drama, W. E. B. Du Bois’s reflections on black masculinity and cultural nationalism, the modernist aesthetics of the Harlem Renaissance, and representations of black cosmopolitanism in contemporary visual art.
At the Valois "See Your Food" cafeteria on Chicago's South Side, black and white men gather over cups of coffee and steam-table food. Mitchell Duneier, a sociologist, spent four years at the Valois writing this moving profile of the black men who congregate at "Slim's Table." Praised as "a marvelous study of those who should not be forgotten" by the Wall Street Journal,Slim's Table helps demolish the narrow sociological picture of black men and simple media-reinforced stereotypes. In between is a "respectable" citizenry, too often ignored and little understood.
"Slim's Table is an astonishment. Duneier manages to fling open windows of perception into what it means to be working-class black, how a caring community can proceed from the most ordinary transactions, all the while smashing media-induced stereotypes of the races and race relations."—Citation for Chicago Sun Times Chicago Book of the Year Award
"An instant classic of ethnography that will provoke debate and provide insight for years to come."—Michael Eric Dyson, Chicago Tribune
"Mr. Duneier sees the subjects of his study as people and he sees the scale of their lives as fully human, rather than as diminished versions of grander lives lived elsewhere by people of another color. . . . A welcome antidote to trends in both journalism and sociology."—Roger Wilkins, New York Times Book Review
Over 277,000 African Americans migrated to Chicago between 1900 and 1940, an influx unsurpassed in any other northern city. From the start, carceral powers literally and figuratively created a prison-like environment to contain these African Americans within the so-called Black Belt on the city's South Side.
A geographic study of race and gender, Spatializing Blackness casts light upon the ubiquitous--and ordinary--ways carceral power functions in places where African Americans live. Moving from the kitchenette to the prison cell, and mining forgotten facts from sources as diverse as maps and memoirs, Rashad Shabazz explores the myriad architectures of confinement, policing, surveillance, urban planning, and incarceration. In particular, he investigates how the ongoing carceral effort oriented and imbued black male bodies and gender performance from the Progressive Era to the present. The result is an essential interdisciplinary study that highlights the racialization of space, the role of containment in subordinating African Americans, the politics of mobility under conditions of alleged freedom, and the ways black men cope with--and resist--spacial containment.
A timely response to the massive upswing in carceral forms within society, Spatializing Blackness examines how these mechanisms came to exist, why society aimed them against African Americans, and the consequences for black communities and black masculinity both historically and today.
Stagolee Shot Billy
Cecil Brown Harvard University Press, 2004 Library of Congress PS478.B76 2003 | Dewey Decimal 813.54
Although his story has been told countless times--by performers from Ma Rainey, Cab Calloway, and the Isley Brothers to Ike and Tina Turner, James Brown, and Taj Mahal--no one seems to know who Stagolee really is. Stack Lee? Stagger Lee? He has gone by all these names in the ballad that has kept his exploits before us for over a century. Delving into a subculture of St. Louis known as "Deep Morgan," Cecil Brown emerges with the facts behind the legend to unfold the mystery of Stack Lee and the incident that led to murder in 1895.
How the legend grew is a story in itself, and Brown tracks it through variants of the song "Stack Lee"--from early ragtime versions of the '20s, to Mississippi John Hurt's rendition in the '30s, to John Lomax's 1940s prison versions, to interpretations by Lloyd Price, James Brown, and Wilson Pickett, right up to the hip-hop renderings of the '90s. Drawing upon the works of James Baldwin, Richard Wright, and Ralph Ellison, Brown describes the powerful influence of a legend bigger than literature, one whose transformation reflects changing views of black musical forms, and African Americans' altered attitudes toward black male identity, gender, and police brutality. This book takes you to the heart of America, into the soul and circumstances of a legend that has conveyed a painful and elusive truth about our culture.
How have African American men interpreted and what meaning have they given to social conditions that position them as the primary perpetrators of violence? How has this shaped the ways they see themselves and engaged the world? Through Our Eyes provides a view of black men’s experiences that challenges scholars, policy makers, practitioners, advocates, and students to grapple with the reality of race, gender, and violence in America.This multi-level analysis explores the chronological life histories of eight black men from the aftermath of World War II through the Cold War and into today. Gail Garfield identifies the locations, impact, and implications of the physical, personal, and social violence that enters the lives of African American men. She addresses questions critical to understanding how race, gender, and violence are insinuated into black men’s everyday lives and how experiences are constructed, reconstructed, and interpreted. By appreciating the significance of how African American men live through what it means to be black and male in America, this book envisions the complicated dynamics that devalue their lives, those of their family, and society.
The lumber industry employed more African American men than any southern economic sector outside agriculture. Yet little scholarship exists on these workers and their times.
William P. Jones merges interviews with archival sources to explore black men and women's changing relationship to industrial work in the southern sawmill communities of Elizabethtown, North Carolina; Chapman, Alabama; and Bogalusa, Louisiana. By placing black lumber workers within the history of southern industrialization, Jones reveals that industrial employment was another facet of the racial segregation and political disfranchisement that defined black life in the Jim Crow South. He also examines an older tradition of southern sociology that viewed industrialization as socially disruptive and morally corrupting to African American social and cultural traditions rooted in agriculture.
Simone C. Drake spent the first several decades of her life learning how to love and protect herself, a black woman, from the systems designed to facilitate her harm and marginalization. But when she gave birth to the first of her three sons, she quickly learned that black boys would need protection from these very same systems—systems dead set on the static, homogenous representations of black masculinity perpetuated in the media and our cultural discourse.
In When We Imagine Grace, Drake borrows from Toni Morrison’s Beloved to bring imagination to the center of black masculinity studies—allowing individual black men to exempt themselves and their fates from a hateful, ignorant society and open themselves up as active agents at the center of their own stories. Against a backdrop of crisis, Drake brings forth the narratives of black men who have imagined grace for themselves. We meet African American cowboy, Nat Love, and Drake’s own grandfather, who served in the first black military unit to fight in World War II. Synthesizing black feminist and black masculinity studies, Drake analyzes black fathers and daughters, the valorization of black criminals, the black entrepreneurial pursuits of Marcus Garvey, Berry Gordy, and Jay-Z, and the denigration and celebration of gay black men: Cornelius Eady, Antoine Dodson, and Kehinde Wiley. With a powerful command of its subjects and a passionate dedication to hope, When We Imagine Grace gives us a new way of seeing and knowing black masculinity—sophisticated in concept and bracingly vivid in telling.
The Wished For Country
Wayne Karlin Northwestern University Press, 2002 Library of Congress PS3561.A625W57 2002 | Dewey Decimal 813.54
The Wished For Country is set during the founding of the Maryland colony in the mid-seventeenth century. It traces the entwined lives of James Hallam, a carpenter and indentured servant; Ezekiel, an African slave brought to Maryland from Barbados; and Tawzin, a Piscataway Indian, kidnapped to England when a child, and now back in America. While Hallam goes on to become a soldier and a player in the politics of the Maryland colony, Ezekiel and Tawzin become the center of an outcast group of Blacks, poor whites, and Native Americans, who find themselves striving to reinvent themselves and their world.
The stories of these three men, the women who love them, and the community they form, bring to vivid life the experiences of those who came to America pulled by a dream of what could be shaped from an emptiness that embodied promise, of those who were unwillingly brought to be the instruments of that dream, and of those who saw the shape of their world forever changed by the coming of the Europeans.