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Raisins in Milk, by David Covin.

April 1, 2018

Raisins in Milk

Raisins in Milk, by David Covin.  Blue Nile Press, 2018.


4 stars.

A fast-moving, but grim account of an African American couple living in the South during the early twentieth century and facing the violence of white racism in its extreme forms.

David Covin is Professor Emeritus of Government and Ethnic Studies at California State University at Sacramento and Co-Editor of the National Political Science Review. His activism began with the Civil Rights Movement in the South in the 1960s, and in the subsequent establishment of Black Studies in universities. In addition, he has continued to be active and respected for his ongoing achievements in academia and civil society. He has published numerous books and articles in the scholarly press in addition to novels and accounts for the general public.

Covin’s drama-filled Raisins in Milk is primarily the story of a young woman growing up and falling in love with the man of her dreams. Together they work to earn enough money to move north where they correctly assume that racism, while still present, will be less virulent. The book quickly reminds us that the “Jim Crow South” of the early twentieth century was far worse than the segregated water fountains. The atrocities, like the ones Covin describes, really did happen. Even if they seldom all happened in the same family, blacks lived under the constant knowledge they and their loved ones could be the ones attacked. If anything is hard to believe in the book, it is the safety and power one clan of African Americans had been able to create.

My problem with the book is the repeated emphasis on the need of black men for ‘manhood,’ even if the cost is death. I realize that black men needing to prove themselves as men has been a theme in civil rights, particularly in the Civil Rights Movement of the 1960s in which Covin was active. I only hope that black men can find a better goal than a martyrdom which leaves black women with all the responsibility for the children. Hopefully “Black Lives Matter” provides a slogan around which women and men can unite.

For some people, it is still easy to downplay the extreme violence that African Americans have faced in the past and continue to face today. That is why this book is important. I recommend it widely to a variety of readers; black and white, young and old, male and female.

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