Critical Context

(Literary Essentials: African American Literature)

Schuyler composed Black No More when he was still a socialist, though evidence of the conservatism he would fully embrace in the early 1960’s is already evident in the cynicism permeating the narrative and, especially, in the role that science plays in the novel. The novel was written during an age of rising eminence for the scientific method, objectivity, and statistical knowledge, which would come to displace religion and revelation as the sphere of “truth.” However, Black No More turns on a distinction that Schuyler draws between science per se and scientists. For Schuyler, the American obsession with wealth and power trumps all endeavors, including the scientific one.

If he wanted evidence of the corruptibility of scientists, Schuyler could find ample proof in the rise and popularity of eugenics in the early twentieth century. For Schuyler, eugenics is a perfect example of scientific methodology and rigor yoked to questionable sociological ends: For example, Margaret Gander, the founder of Planned Parenthood, originally dedicated herself to “cleansing” the Anglo-Saxon race by discouraging miscegenation not only between African Americans and Caucasians but also between Caucasians and Asians, Jews, Catholics, and Eastern Europeans, among others. In the novel, Dr. Crookman and Dr. Buggerie function as the scientists who are driven by both a thirst for knowledge and a thirst for money and power. Schuyler sees both socialism and eugenics as predicated on a belief in the improvement of human welfare. His point is that, while both may be theoretically possible, human nature, in its ugliest forms, always bends the search for truth to the search for power.