Recommended reading, no. 7.

Published in 1990, Linda Flowers’ Throwed Away: Failures of Progress in Eastern North Carolina is not, strictly, on topic for Black Wide-Awake, but is very much BWA- adjacent. Using memory and experience as a framework, Flowers examines the demise of eastern North Carolina tenant farming and the failures of the limited industrialization that took its place. I do not know economics or sociology well enough to assess the merits of Flowers’ thesis, but the book’s glimpses of this disappeared life, rendered quietly, but devastatingly, offer me invaluable insight into the world of so many of the families I chronicle here. 

A sample:

“The ritual of hiring hands was the same as it had always been. A tenant would pull up in the dirt yard of a black family that had worked for him before, or that he had heard was all right help, and blow the horn, and after a while Eloise or Jessie or Dot — always it would be the mama or a grown girl — would come onto the porch or, if the mama, up to the truck door, and the man, after a bit of pointless jocularity a white person always carried on with a Negro, would get down to business.

“‘You gonna hep me on Tuesdays this year, ain’t you?’ The question would have sounded like the answer was perfectly plain. The woman would look off across the yard, her head and body sideways to the truck, hands on her hips, and, when she was ready, offer a reply.

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