Carl Van Vechten, and others--as different as these writers
were from him--E. C. L. Adams was a white writer fascinated
by his Negro neighbors. For him, as much as for the New Negro intellectuals and artists I have named, treating blacks
as serious characters in serious literature--seeing the Negro,
"old" and "new," with eyes unjaded by the conventions of
minstrelsy and plantation fiction--was an exciting new literary calling. And no black or white writer publishing fiction in
the 1920s comes as close to defining New Negroes like Tad
and Scip: smart, tough, sometimes bitter, but nonetheless heroic analysts of the South they knew. Perhaps it is precisely
because he wore "the black mask of humanity," and then, in
deference to the Clarksons, Leveretts, Adamses, and other
white readers, he wore a subtly wrought "white mask," Adams could bear to tell a great many unspeakable facts about a
Carolina in shambles and to do more than that: to pierce the
skin of fact and reach the "wey down" truth.
This formulation is Sterling A. Brown's.
Virginia F. Cullen, "Ned Adams of Columbia, Including a Few
Sidelights on 'Tad' Goodson," Sunday Record, ca. 1931, reprinted
from the Savannah Morning News; courtesy of Mrs.
George C. S.
See Nathan Huggins, Harlem Renaissance ( New York: Oxford
University Press, 1971), pp. 129ff.; Sterling A. Brown, "Luck Is a Fortune," Nation, October 16, 1937, pp. 409-10; Ralph Ellison, "Recent
Negro Fiction," New Masses, August 5, 1941, pp. 22-26.
A detailed study of white paternalism during slavery is Drew Gilpin Faust's James Henry Hammond and the Old South: A Design for Mastery ( Baton Rouge: Louisiana State University Press, 1982).
Langston Hughes, I Wonder as I Wander ( New York: Hill and
Wang, 1956), pp. 49-50.
Faust, Hammond, pp. 72, 103-4, 319-20.
See John Dollard, Caste and Class in a Southern Town ( Garden
City: Doubleday, 1937), pp. 8, 212; and Hortense Powdermaker, After
Freedom: A Cultural Study in the Deep South ( New York: Russell
and Russell, 1939), p. xix.
This phrase comes from Zora Neale Hurston, Their Eyes Were
Watching God ( 1937; rpt. Urbana: University of Illinois Press, 1978),