by Derrick Bell
Derrick Bell is perhaps best known for the principled stand he took at Harvard in 1990 when he quit his tenured position on the law-school faculty to protest the school's failure to grant tenure to a black woman. Now a visiting professor at New York Law School, Bell is still deeply interested in issues of race relations and has chosen to explore the subject fictionally in Afrolantica Legacies. In a nutshell, the story goes like this: a mysterious land mass suddenly appears in the Atlantic Ocean, a fabulous island on which only black people can survive. American blacks set sail to the island to begin a new life, only to see it sink again before they can reach the shore. On the return trip to America, the passengers draw up a list of principles called the Afrolantica Legacies, defining how they want to reposition themselves in American society.
The stories Bell tells to illustrate his points are narrated by Geneva Crenshaw, a character he has used in earlier fiction. Racism, government conspiracies against blacks, and Jewish-black relations are the subjects here, and heroes of African American history such as Marcus Garvey, Thurgood Marshall, and Nat Turner all make appearances. Depending on which side of the black/white divide you happen to stand, Bell's take on race relations in America will either seem right on the money or very grim indeed.
Hardcover: 186 pages