Chicago, Illinois: Prairie State Press, 1937. First Edition. 8 7/8” x 6¼”. Red cloth, title gilt. Pp. 148. Very good minus: a bit shaken, rear hinge partially cracked; frontis leaf torn and repaired with tape at an earlier date; a few small stains to ffep; lightly dust-soiled. Inscribed by the author on front pastedown.
This is a scholarly treatise on the evolution of man and the universe, and how such data can be used to explain (and hopefully alter) prejudiced misconceptions of the African American race. It was written by a Black lawyer from Chicago, Thomas Kirksey.
Information on the author is scarce, but through contemporary newspaper accounts we were able to learn that Thomas Kirksey graduated with an A.B. degree from Howard University in 1916, an L.L.B. from Howard in 1918, and a Master's in law from Boston University in 1921. He was known for his erudition even as an undergraduate; the 1916 Howard yearbook had some fun at his expense: “Kirksey's first sermon was divided into three parts: The first part he didn't understand, the second part we didn't understand, and the third part no one understood.” He went on to be a lawyer in Chicago and a frequent writer and contributor to The Messenger (known as the World's Greatest Ne*ro Monthly). In 1919 Kirksey co-authored a work entitled Who Stopped the Race Riots in Washington: Real Causes and Effects of Race Clashes in the District of Columbia, and his Boston University thesis was on “The Prevention of Poverty.”
In this work's introduction, Kirksey wrote that he was “the son of an ex-slave; hence there is little wonder that he is a rebel.” He also penned a preface, which explained that
“The aim and object of this pamphlet or small book is to combat racial prejudice by destroying a part of the foundation upon which it rests. The force of this treatise has been directed mainly against certain biological concepts which have been accepted as criteria of race and have col*red the thoughts of vast numbers of people concerning the Ne*ro, even including the Ne*ro himself.”
The book was divided into three sections. The first was concerned almost exclusively with evolution, the second focused on “attacking ancient biological concepts which . . . account for a large amount of present-day prejudice against the Ne*ro,” and part three “ventures a prophecy regarding the racial destiny” of the African American. The text was composed of articles, quotations and reports from various authors, philosophers, scientists and scholars, accompanied by Kirksey's own narrative, observations and interpretations. Chapters were dedicated to “Geologic Evolution,” “An Inquiry into the Supposed Superiority and Inferiority of the Human Species” and “The Anthropological Future of the American Ne*ro.”
The book included two original poems by the author, one with a deeply moving line: “Enter eloquent plea for some sort of plan / To prevent the cruelty of man to man.” There were portions of others' poems interspersed, including “The Chambered Nautilus” by Oliver Wendell Holmes, as well as quotations by Shakespeare and Omar Khayyam. The book also has several photographic illustrations including W.E.B. DuBois as well as three African American women: Ethyl B. Wise, “Coloratura Soprano” of Washington, D.C., Addiefie Lade Cruikshank, a pianist from Chicago and Magdalene De Acklen, a Chicago “Business Efficiency Expert.”
This copy was inscribed by the author in the year after publication “To Mr. Lloyd Lewis, distinguished editor of a great and liberal newspaper. 'With sincere wishes and kindest appreciation.'” There was a small note below it, we believe in a different hand, “See pp. 74-75.” Those pages contained the text of an article by Lewis from the Chicago Daily News of August 8, 1936: “Ne*roes at Berlin: They Explode the Old Myth About Sutures in the Skull, and Point Up Some Facts About the Race.”
A thoughtful, impactful work by an African American scholar and lawyer. OCLC shows 23 holdings. Very good -. Item #7220