Chapter 23 Summary

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The narrator visited the bar downstairs and found a crowd of people upset about the shooting. Ras the Exhorter was among them and attempted to draw negative attention to the narrator’s presence. The narrator attempted to deflect, begging the crowd to let his newly dead friend rest in peace, and exited the bar as Ras continued to rant.

As he attempted to hail a cab, the narrator found a pair of dark green sunglasses and put them on. Almost instantly, a woman walked up and mistook him for someone named Rinehart. When she realized she was mistaken, she warned him that he’d better not let Rinehart catch him in his impersonation.

As he continued down the street, the narrator was repeatedly mistaken for Rinehart. He didn’t engage with anybody, nor did he correct them—he simply waved and accepted the greetings and accolades intended for his unknown doppelganger.

Further up the road, the narrator found Ras the Exhorter calling his followers to action. He would no longer be Ras the Exhorter, he heard the separatist say, but Ras the Destroyer, and he intended to drive his opponents out of Harlem by force. Stopping to listen, the narrator was excited to realize that neither Ras nor his followers recognized him with his Rinehart glasses on.

Continuing on, the narrator stopped at the Jolly Dollar yet again to see if anybody recognized him. This time, neither the bartender nor the patrons identified him—not even here, he noted with excitement, despite this being a long-established Brotherhood bar. After a brief altercation with another customer, the bartender, referring to him as “Rinehart,” told him to leave.

On the road, someone stopped the narrator and asked him for the “final figure.” Briefly confused, the narrator realized that Rinehart ran gambling bets for the neighborhood, which was why everyone knew him. Even a police officer who passed by said a friendly hello to him, asking when he would have their cut of the gambling money ready.

Walking toward Hambro’s, the narrator picked up a handbill and was surprised to see a now-familiar name: “Rev. B.P. Rinehart, Spiritual Technologist.” Stopping by the address on the bill, he saw a storefront converted into a church with biblical scenes painted on the windows. He was greeted by two women from the congregation and was amazed by how many people Rinehart seemed to be all at once.

Arriving at Hambro’s at last, the narrator learned that the organization was planning to make some ideological sacrifices in favor of aligning themselves with other political groups. Finding this distasteful, and seeking justice for Clifton and Tarp and the others abandoned by the Brotherhood, the narrator argued with Hambro. The two continued to debate the issue, and the narrator eventually had an epiphany driven by his experience as the ersatz Rinehart: maybe he could simply become invisible and remove himself from the situation long enough to lull Brother Jack and those who had wronged him into complacency.

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Chapter 22 Summary


Chapter 24 Summary