The Blacker the Berry Additional Summary

Wallace Thurman


(Literary Essentials: African American Literature)

Bell, Bernard W. The Afro-American Novel and Its Tradition. Amherst: University of Massachusetts Press, 1987. Argues that because his heroine’s life so closely parallels his own, Thurman fails to maintain the distance that would have made his novel more effective. Like Thurman himself, Bell writes, Emma Lou “lacked the will and community support to explore the cultural alternatives of her shame.”

Bone, Robert. The Negro Novel in America. New Haven, Conn.: Yale University Press, 1958. Suggests that in the character of Emma Lou, Thurman is working out his own conflicting feelings about his race and his identity. While in this novel he seems to have reached some resolution, in Infants of the Spring he reverts to bitter uncertainty.

David, Arthur P. From the Dark Tower: Afro-American Writers, 1900 to 1960. Washington, D.C.: Howard University Press, 1974. Describes The Blacker the Berry as a “really moving book” despite its “sledgehammer” approach to a complex issue. Praises Thurman for daring to use a dark-skinned girl as his protagonist.

Gayle, Addison, Jr. The Way of the New World: The Black Novel in America. Garden City, N.Y.: Anchor Press, 1975. Includes an excellent analysis of The Blacker the Berry emphasizing the problem of black identity, which is in part a result of the “aspirations of the black middle class.” The theatrical productions mentioned in the novel symbolize the confusion of roles in real life.

Henderson, Mae Gwendolyn. “Portrait of Wallace Thurman.” In The Harlem Renaissance Remembered, edited by Arna Bontemps. New York: Dodd, Mead, 1972. Relates The Blacker the Berry to Thurman’s own uncertainties about the function of the black artist. Believing that one should concentrate on universals, not on “propaganda” about specific issues, Thurman was not happy with the novel.

Hunger, Margaret L. Race, Gender, and the Politics of Skin Tone. New York: Routledge, 2005. Includes a chapter on The Blacker the Berry and discourses of ethnic legitimacy.

Thomson, Maxine D., and Verna Keith. “The Blacker the Berry: Gender, Skin Tone, Self-Esteem, and Self-Efficacy.” In Race, Work, and Family in the Lives of African Americans, edited by Marlese Durr and Shirley A. Hill. Lanham, Md.: Rowman & Littlefield, 2006. Discusses the effects of racial and gendered codes upon characters’ feelings of self-worth in Thurman’s novel.