The Blacker the Berry . . .

The Blacker the Berry . . .


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The groundbreaking Harlem Renaissance novel about prejudice within the black community
Emma Lou Morgan’s skin is black. So black that it’s a source of shame to her not only among the largely white community of her hometown of Boise, Idaho, but also among her lighter-skinned family and friends. Seeking a community where she will be accepted, she leaves home at age eighteen, traveling first to Los Angeles and then to New York City, where in the Harlem of the 1920s she finds a vibrant scene of nightclubs and dance halls and parties and love affairs . . . and, still, rejection by her own race.

One of the most widely read and controversial works of the Harlem Renaissance, and the first novel to openly address prejudice among black Americans and the issue of colorism, The Blacker the Berry . . . is a book of undiminished power about the invidious role of skin color in American society.
For more than seventy years, Penguin has been the leading publisher of classic literature in the English-speaking world. With more than 1,800 titles, Penguin Classics represents a global bookshelf of the best works throughout history and across genres and disciplines. Readers trust the series to provide authoritative texts enhanced by introductions and notes by distinguished scholars and contemporary authors, as well as up-to-date translations by award-winning translators.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780143131878
Publisher: Penguin Publishing Group
Publication date: 01/16/2018
Edition description: Reprint
Pages: 192
Sales rank: 739,399
Product dimensions: 5.00(w) x 7.60(h) x 0.70(d)

About the Author

Wallace Thurman (1902–1934), a novelist, essayist, editor, and playwright of the Harlem Renaissance, was born in Salt Lake City, Utah, and moved to Harlem in 1925. In 1926 he became the editor of the socialist journal The Messenger, where he published the early stories of Langston Hughes. He left The Messenger later that year to co-found the literary magazine Fire!! along with Hughes and Zora Neale Hurston, among others. The Blacker the Berry . . . , his first novel, was published in 1929; he wrote two other novels, Infants of the Spring and The Interne, and a play, Harlem.

Allyson Hobbs (introduction) is an associate professor in the department of history and the director of African and African American studies at Stanford. Her first book, A Chosen Exile: A History of Racial Passing in American Life, won the Frederick Jackson Turner Award for best first book in American history and the Lawrence Levine Award for best book in American cultural history, both from the Organization of American Historians. Hobbs is a Distinguished Lecturer for the Organization of American Historians and a contributor to and The New York Times Book Review.

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Part 1

Excerpted from "The Blacker the Berry . . ."
by .
Copyright © 2018 Wallace Thurman.
Excerpted by permission of Penguin Publishing Group.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

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Blacker the Berry 4.5 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 11 reviews.
Guest More than 1 year ago
My department at university was American Literature, and among the others Harlem Renaissance attracted me the most. I have read many books about color prejudice but this book is different; It focuses on the color prejudice within the black community. When you compare the main character of this book 'Emma Lou' with Zora Neale Hurston's 'Janie Crawford' ( from; Their Eyes Were Watching God), you will find Emma Lou so weak and miserable. Janie was a black woman too, but she did not choose to pity herself. But I think that Emma Lou's were more common than Janie's, at those time. Both of the books have different plces in Harlem Renaissance Literature. 'The Blacker The Berry', is a very successful novel not only for showing the color prejudice within black the Black community, but also for making people think about the nonsense of any kind of prejudice.
CutestLilBookworm on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Poor Emma Lou, so naive and self centered....this woman's got issues! Thurman paints a complex portrayal of a dark skinned African American woman who is so caught up in anxieties surrounding the color of her skin that she attributes everything that goes wrong in her life to just that. Granted, her mother planted these seeds of self doubt as she lamented her daughters skin tone and expressed pure resentment of Emma Lou's also dark father, but she really goes to the extreme and blames every negative encounter with others as a consequence of not being fair skinned enough. Is Emma Lou totally at fault for feeling the way she does? Not entirely, because there is definite validity to her thought process because unfortunately dark skinned African American's were/are often mocked and ridiculed not only by whites but by other African American's. Thurman does a great job at allowing the reader to see the world through shifting realities...sometime what Emma Lou imagines to be true is true, but other times, she mistakenly attributes actions towards her due to her color when it's really just due to her naivety and her own prejudices.Thurman tells the story of Emma Lou's journey for acceptance which leads her from Boise, Idaho to Southern California and then on to a hustling and bustling Harlem in New York City in the 1920's. Not only are you able to see a clear picture of the various characters and the different settings, but Thurman is superb at revealing the inner thoughts and the 'why' behind each characters behavior. This was a really good read!!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Many readers have already given a synopsis of the book so I won't rehash it. But I thought the book was well written however, the ending was abrupt. The characters were very real and relatable. 
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Ausonius More than 1 year ago
Wallace Thurman (1902 - 1934) died young. Like his novel's heroine, Emma Lou Morgan, he was very dark-skinned and did some growing up in Idaho and California. Also a polymath genius, Thurman published his best known work, THE BLACKER THE BERRY, in 1929. It is a fine story, but landed with a thud both among earliest readers and critics. It is about very black Emma Lou Morgan who at age 18 "fled" from her home in Boise, Idaho for Los Angeles. Her maternal family -- the Lightfoots -- intended Emma Lou to take a teaching degree and then move to the South and no longer embarrass her fair-skinned grandmother and mother. As her mulatto grandmother and mother reminded her: having the genes of a pure black father had ruined her life as soon as she was born. A black boy might make something of himself -- as pullman porter, pharmacist or even lawyer. But "...a black girl would never know anything but sorrow and disappointment" (Part One). And every page of the five parts of THE BLACKER THE BERRY proves that they were right. ***** Emma Lou makes no close friends at the University of Southern California. She is too black to be admitted to a Negro sorority. After three years she flees to legendary Harlem during the years of its literary and artistic "Renaissance." Surely someone in the multi-toned Negro community there will love and understand her, despite her hue. But no. She is bedded by useless "yaller" Negro men ashamed to be seen with Emma Lou in their own social circles. Men mainly mooch money from her. Her one great love is selfish, lazy, half-mulatto, half filipino Alva. Her "salvation" finally occurs when Emma Lou, by now a qualified but unhappy teacher in a Harlem school, ditches Alva and resolves to grow hard, selfish, economically independent, to become "somebody" on her own terms, and to stop being ashamed of being "too black." ***** Yes, THE BLACKER THE BERRY is a better than average story. But its story line seems intended as a preaching vehicle for analyzing and skewering American Negro racial prejudice. Even in Harlem, the whiter the Negro, the higher his or her social status. But there is hope for Emma Lou. Witness the quatrain: "A yaller gal rides in a limousine,/A brown-skin does the same;/ A black gal rides in a rickety Ford,/ But she gets there, yes, my Lord" (Part 4). ***** THE BLACKER THE BERRY shows an American Negro world ruled by the light-skinned. This is a world dominated by people 3/4 white, like Emma Lou's Southern maternal great-great grandparents. They had been given freedom by their white begetters, the Lightfoots. Thus grandmother Maria had been born free. Moved to Kansas and then Idaho, the Lightfoots prospered through their saloon. Maria Lightfoot reveled in the highest stratum of Negro Society, "the blue-vein circle, ... all of its members were fair-skinned enough for their blood to be seen pulsing purple through the veins of their wrists." The family motto was "Whiter and whiter every generation." In only two or three more generations, Lightfoot progeny, if only they married sensibly, would pass for white, would be white, and their problems would then be over. (Part 1) ***** The color schism within American Negro communities is what this novel is about. It can be very depressing. -OOO-
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Emma Lou Brown is a tragic character, the product of what abuse can do to someone. Her story displays the pain of intra-racism on paper. She was so abused by her family and peers for being dark that she turned around and became abusive to other darkskinned Blacks. This is actually a common response by many darkskinned Blacks who suffer color discrimination. Modern day examples, include many rappers and darkskinned male actors who rap about or talk about why they don't like Black women and then go out and marry non-Black and extremely fair Black women, so as to "whitewash" the perceived filth of their dark Black skin. Sometimes, as this story proves, the worst discrimination comes from people who are the same race and/or color as you. Emma's attempt to mate with a lighterskinned man is a predictable response to the years of abuse, oppression, rejection and teasing she suffered from those whom she should have been able to call "her own." And his knowledge of her self-loathing made his ability to abuse her that much better. Black people dislike this topic getting mainstream attention, because many feel it takes away from the attention given to traditional racism. However, we cannot pretend like this form of racism has not injured our people equally, if not more brutally than traditional racism. Things like the paper bag test, the comb test and other acts throughout history in which lightskinned and darkskinned Blacks separated themselves by color (and usually also class) is not something that we can pretend did not happen (and still happens in some circumstances to this day). Many Blacks who did this felt justified because of the depth of racism, and the lack of opportunities for Blacks of any color. Emma's family shows this in the book, which is why they adopt the "whiter and whiter each generation" mentality. That mentality was very deliberate. My great-great grandmother was able to attend a prominent White college because she could pass for White, as did my great grandparents on two sides. Other relatives attended HBCU's (Historically Black Colleges and Universities) and were able to advance in life. However, they did not wish to continue this "whiter and lighter" and some opted to marry Blacks of darker complexions. Today, my family is a beautiful blend of complexions, and this is something we celebrate. But even in this day and age, I meet far too many Blacks who still make ignorant comments about themselves and other Blacks based on complexion and color. And to think, often those are the first Blacks who will call a White person racist. The hypocrisy can be excruciating to deal with at times.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
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Guest More than 1 year ago
The Blacker the Berry was a terrific book. The main character angered me. It is awful to be prejudice against people of your own color. Emma Lou thought that she was better than others when she was just the opposite. She didn't seem to be able to face the truth which was bad for a black person in the renaisssance period. She allowed guys to use her. Well, I take that back. In some instances, she acted as if she didn't know she was being used. She seemed to finally see reality at the end.