The Conquest: The Story of a Negro Pioneer

The Conquest: The Story of a Negro Pioneer

The Conquest: The Story of a Negro Pioneer

The Conquest: The Story of a Negro Pioneer

Synopsis

The novel portrays the aspirations and struggles of a black homesteader named Oscar Devereaux. Born on a small farm near Cairo, Illinois, one of thirteen children, Devereaux leaves home to work in the Chicago stockyards and finally graduates to the job of porter in a Pullman railway car. He is persoable, industrious, and frugal with a purpose. After saving $2,500, Devereaux goes to South Dakota and buys land. His object is not speculation for quick profit but the cultivation of property he can call his own. He plows and sows and sweats, and by the age of twenty-five has reaped an estate worth $20,000. Success is sweet, self-respect is sweeter. But if the calamities he is exposed to as a homesteader are severe, so are those brought on by marriage to the passive daughter of a dominating preacher.

Excerpt

By Learthen Dorsey

Oscar Micheaux was a novelist and a race man who dealt in negative racial stereotypes as well as positive black images. He was an apologist for the social and economic philosophies of Booker T. Washington (1856-1915), to whom The Conquest is dedicated. Washington, an educator from about 1893 to 1915 and founder of the Tuskegee Institute, a college for African-Americans in Alabama, urged blacks to concentrate on economic gains rather than social and political equality. He believed that blacks should pursue practical concerns, work diligently, and defer integration to some later date. Those who espoused Washington's philosophy were accommodationisto in social affairs and conservative in economic and political ones. Writers influenced by Washington never wrote about black militancy nor attacked Jim Crow directly, but concentrated on assimilation and the middle-class ideal, or criticized racial dissension or tensions within the black community. Micheaux was therefore untouched by the Harlem Renaissance in terms of literary realism. Instead, he preached and wrote about personal adjustment through self-help and self-determination; he ignored or minimized the historical realities and consequences of American racism. Like his hero, if he condemned American brutality toward African-Americans, he did so carefully and without offense.

Joseph A. Young, in his assessment of Micheaux's novels, maintains that they turn on a myth of black inferiority which the black protagonists fancifully transcend. With respect to Micheaux's basic story, line, there is usually a "good" black man . . .

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