Junius Edwards

(b. 1929)

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Frank Yerby (1916—1991)

John A. Williams (b. 1925)

Clarence Major (b. 1936)


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(1929–2008), novelist and short story writer.

Junius Edwards's presentation of the soldier in his novel If We Must Die (1961) and short stories “Liars Don’tQualify” (1961) and “Duel with the Clock” (1967) is a part of an African American continuum from Frank Yerby and John O. Killens to George Davis and John A. Williams. Like these writers, Edwards's works depict the impact of racial, psychological, and personal problems on the African American soldier. In “Duel with the Clock” a soldier seeks escape from army duty through drugs. In “Liars Don’t” Qualify” Edwards confronts the hypocrisy of the town that denies returning soldiers the same freedoms they had fought to preserve. This story is also the foundation for If We Must Die, a novel of multifaceted irony. Its simplicity of language and character does not belie the dehumanization of African Americans; the entrenched dominance of the southern white power structure during the 1950s; and the violence that affects the life of any African American perceived as a threat to this structure. The self-esteem of the main character, a returning Korean War veteran, is contrasted with the white voter registrar, who refuses to allow the veteran to register on the grounds that he lied about being a member of the Army Reserve. The veteran is later beaten and threatened with castration. Because Edwards was born in Alexandria, Louisiana, and in his twenties during the Korean War, his novel may have resulted from observation or experience. He studied in Chicago and at the University of Oslo and won the Writer's Digest Short Story Contest (1958) and a Eugene Saxton Fellowship (1959). He continues to publish in such anthologies as Calling the Wind (1993), which Clarence Major edited.

—Australia Tarver

Subjects: Literature.

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