What are some of Frank Yerby’s most important works and his impact on “the South”?
Frank Yerby's works were significant because they portrayed black characters in a more complex way than the "happy slaves" depicted in other popular works about the Old South, notably Margaret Mitchell's Gone With the Wind. His important works include The Foxes of Harrow and Dahomean, considered his best work. While avoiding the tropes common to literature evoking the "Lost Cause," Yerby's romances still did depict many stereotypes, and some of his black characters, at least those in the American South (some of his books were set in Africa) were criticized for being victims rather than agents of their own destiny. Yet they were still given a level of humanity that blacks were not afforded in other contemporary works. As critic Milton Hughes said of Yerby (himself a black man):
Yerby insists, rightly so, on presenting the Negro as an unusual person of stature and dignity, in some cases, despite the shackles of slavery. He is keen on giving the psychology behind the rejection of Black people.
In short, the American South Yerby presented to his readers was not simply the white South.