I picked up this book at a library book store and with a $2 price tag, I didn’t think twice about adding it to the growing pile of books that I purchased.
The introduction revealed interesting facts about author, John Edward Bruce, who was born a slave. It also provided great context to the book’s content but seemed to get a little lengthy with the editor outlining the plot, discussing the publication history, and providing information about each of the chapters. After finishing the book, I realized why such a hefty introduction was necessary.
The book, featuring a black detective, was originally published as a series in a Philadelphia magazine from 1907 - 1909. This may be the reason that once pulled together as a novel, it’s a little disjointed. In that regard, the notes to the text are very helpful and eliminate some confusion.
As noted on the book’s inside flap, Bruce “boldly attacks white prejudice and racial injustice” in North America, Europe, and Africa. The entire first half of the book addresses Sandipe’s (the detective and fiery main character) departure from his home in Africa to his arrival to America’s east coast. His father warned him of the treatment he would receive in America. But that could not prepare him for what he would actually experience.
While on his journey South to attend a historically black college/university (HBCU), he’s confronted by this injustice like never before when asked to move to the train car designated for black passengers as the train crosses the Mason-Dixon line. Sandipe’s inclination to justly but naively defend, what should be, his right to remain seated where he is earns him a standing ovation along with an ally. This ally would later be responsible for landing Sandipe a position as a sleuth.
In the second half of the book, Sandipe, or “our hero” as the author often refers to him, receives his first case. He travels to Europe and takes on disguise as several individuals. Often playing the part of of an uneducated individual with inferior mental capacity, to substantiate the prevailing myth, he embarks on successful career.
In addition to wishing this book was a series, it made me want to know more about Bruce. I am now in possession of John Edward Bruce: Politician, Journalist, and Self-trained Historian of the African Diaspora by Ralph L Crowder. Stay tuned for the review!
“Opportunity and environment are the standards by which all men should be judged, not color. It is no compliment to the negro to tell him that he is as good as a white man, for that presupposes that the white man is a superior being, which is not true. His opportunities and environment have done for him exactly what they would have done for the black man similarly placed.” The Black Sleuth by John Edwards Bruce