George Schuyler's first novel, originally published in 1931 by the Macaulay Company and reissued in 1989 by Northeastern University Press, Black No More is generally considered the first fulllength satire by an African American. In Black No More, Schuyler fictionalizes the political ideas that he was best known for: outrage at the notion that race makes difference and at America's social stratification based on race. While society searched for a solution to the “race problem,” Schuyler, in this anti-utopian novel, uses satire and science fiction to reveal that race was not the problem.
His satire is aimed specifically at myths of racial purity and white supremacy and presents ways in which the perpetuation of racism serves economic purposes. Greed is the primary motivation of his characters. He caricatures organizations such as the NAACP, the KKK, and the Urban League, presenting their leaders as hustlers in different shades.
In the preface, Schuyler dedicates Black No More to all of the “pure Caucasians” of the world, setting up any such readers for a shock. We are then introduced to Max Disher, a brown trickster, and his sidekick, Bunny Brown, and the racist environment in which they live. Max is rejected by a racist white woman, Helen, who is entertained by black cabaret performers but is repulsed at the idea of dancing with a black man. This rejection sends Max to Dr. Crookman, inventor of Black-No-More, Inc., where all traces of blackness are removed and Max becomes Matt. The rest of the novel traces Max's adventures as a Caucasian: he marries the same Helen that previously rejected him, and with Bunny, infiltrates the major racist organization of the country, extorts millions of dollars, and finally flees to Europe. The reader is also privy to the effects of the runaway success of Black-No-More, Inc., on American society. As the black population is changed to white, black race leaders are put out of the “leadership” business; as America loses its cheap black labor, an increasingly violent labor situation erupts; and lying-in hospitals are created to secretly change newborns to white. In an attempt to decipher a “proper” race hierarchy, scientists discover that over half of the Caucasian population has “tainted” blood, including those who most advocated racial purity. Just as America goes wild with frenzy, Dr. Crookman brings order by revealing that the “newly” white are actually two to three shades lighter than the “real” Caucasians. Suddenly white is no longer right and everyone panics while sales increase for skin-darkening lotions. “Normality” is returned at the end of the novel with black being beautiful. Schuyler makes clear that there are advantages to possessing white skin in a society that worships this, but human nature does not change purely because of skin color.
Adenike Marie Davidson