Captain Blackman centers on the experiences of the African American soldier throughout history. Abraham Blackman is a symbol for all African Americans who had served their country. Although it opens on the battlefield of Vietnam, the novel quickly becomes an epic. Blackman has chosen to act as a decoy to draw enemy fire in an effort to save the other members of his squad. Hit by multiple rounds of mortar fire, Blackman soon slips into unconsciousness. In this state, he enters a complex series of dreams. The first places him in the Revolutionary War alongside such historical figures as Crispus Attucks, Peter Salem, and Prince Estabrook. Although the battles Blackman finds himself engaged in last for days in his dream, in reality they are only minutes long. The actual time span of the novel is a few days, even though the dream sequences cover almost two hundred years of American military history.
There are no abrupt transitions between real time and dream time. A military historian, Blackman dreams of the wars he covers in his black military history seminar. The last thought that had entered his head before he was wounded was what he had told his company in class the previous day, that he wanted no heroes in his squad, that what they were doing as soldiers was no different from what Crispus Attucks, Peter Salem, and others had done. Thus it was natural that Blackman’s dreams would be set in a historical context.
Williams adeptly intersperses Blackman’s dreams within...
(The entire section is 613 words.)