Recalling his steps as a bright black kid from the Mississippi Delta to U.S. Air Force service in Maine and then to Andrews Air Force Base in Washington, D.C., Taulbert offers the next stage in his cultural chronicle of black life in the 1950s and 1960s, begun in Once Upon a Time When We Were Colored (LJ l/89) and The Last Train North (LJ 7/92). He develops the changes he witnessed from leaving the Delta in the spring of 1963 to the summer of 1968 as more than a personal journey; he writes of an epic moment for a nation and its peoples, a shift from when our world was colored and the South was ugly and profane. But there was more: Vietnam and poverty and domestic unrest. Taulbert's story is not merely a coming-of-age memoir but the reminiscence of social change reflected in an individual life. Highly recommended for collections on blacks, the South, and modern U.S. history-Thomas J. Davis, Arizona State Univ., Tempe
A tepid recollection of the civil rights movement and the Vietnam War from a man who watched both primarily from the sidelines.
The third of Taulbert's memoirs (When We Were Colored, 1989; The Last Train North, 1992), this entry follows him through the 1960s, when as an enlistee in the US Air Force, he was saved by a special assignment from having to serve in Vietnam; he was equally, he claims, "prohibited by [his] uniform from joining the fight for freedom back home." Taulbert left the Mississippi Delta at the age of 17 to join his father in St. Louis. He joined the Air Force in 1964 and was given a "classified position" in data processing at Andrews Air Force Base in Washington, D.C. From that vantage point he watched "scores of airmen shipped off to a war . . . to ensure democracy, even though," he notes, "it was not fully realized here at home." During his years in the nation's capital, he closely observed the marches and riots that tore apart the country and noted the changes wrought by the movement on his own hometown. He was astonished to see "blacks and whites working together for social change." His mother, Mary, became the director of the local Head Start project; family members and friends became activists. An admirer of Dr. Martin Luther King, Taulbert stubbornly dismisses black power leaders such as H. Rap Brown as "northern cousins" who "had not marched in Selma or faced the dogs in Montgomery." Well, neither did he, and his lack of involvement waters down his occasional perceptive observations. Disillusioned by the assassinations of King and Robert F. Kennedy, Taulbert regarded the 1968 Poor People's Campaign as a grave disappointment.
His lack of real engagement, his repeated references to "coloreds," and his attribution of Brer Rabbit dialect to residents of his hometown ("ther wuz angels coming . . . more than I could eber count") will not play well with most readers.