Places Discussed

(Critical Guide to Settings and Places in Literature)


*Richmond. Capital city of Virginia, located in plantation country on the James River. At the time in which this novel is set, Richmond has a population of around six thousand people, with scattered shops, a notary’s office, a jail, a public watering trough, hitching bars for horses, and huge oak trees for shade. Horses, coaches, and slaves on errands for their owners travel the unpaved streets, while barefoot women with baskets on their heads stride along the footpaths. The town has a dancing school for white children and a printer’s shop, both run by Frenchmen, in which political liberty is a frequent topic of conversation. The surrounding peninsula between the James and York Rivers consists of swamps and meandering creeks that rainstorms can suddenly transform into raging, impassable torrents.

Creuzot’s printshop

Creuzot’s printshop. Richmond gathering place for supporters of the French Revolution. Its owner, Monsieur Creuzot, a French Jacobin, is labeled as a radical, along with Alexander Biddenhurst of Philadelphia, who advocates a classless society. Overhearing the “strange music” of their conversation about “liberty, equality and fraternity,” the slave Gabriel, who is the coachman for a man named Prosser, becomes bewitched by the idea of freedom. He rallies the slaves who are angry about their fellow slave Bundy’s death at Prosser’s hands, and takes charge as “general” of an...

(The entire section is 564 words.)

Black Thunder Bibliography

(Literary Essentials: African American Literature)

Bishop, Rudine Sims. Free Within Ourselves: The Development of African American Children’s Literature. Westport, Conn.: Greenwood Press, 2007. Discusses Bontemps’s seminal role in the history of African American children’s literature and his influence on his contemporaries.

Bontemps, Arna. Introduction to Black Thunder. Beacon Press: Boston, 1968. In the introduction to this reprinted edition, Bontemps tried to place Black Thunder not only in the context of his own life but also in the context of the years of the Civil Rights movement, up to and including the assassination of Martin Luther King, Jr. An unusually frank and enlightening author’s introduction.

Carlton-Alexander, Sandra. “Arna Bontemps: The Novelist Revisited.” CLA Journal 34 (March, 1991): 317-330. Attempts to refocus critical attention on Black Thunder. Carlton-Alexander particularly examines some of the negative comments that have been made about the novel.

Davis, Arthur P. From the Dark Tower: Afro-American Writers, 1900-1960. Washington, D.C.: Howard University Press, 1974. This survey of African American fiction includes a chapter on Bontemps. Particularly focuses on recurring themes in Bontemps’s collection of poetry, Personals (1963), and his novels, Black Thunder, God Sends Sunday...

(The entire section is 455 words.)