Many Thousand Gone: An American Fable

Many Thousand Gone: An American Fable

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Rediscover this gripping 1965 novel about race in America—set in a rural corner of Mississippi where slavery never ended

From the Civil Rights Era comes an urgent allegory about the terror and tragedy of Jim Crow, with a new introduction by W. Ralph Eubanks

The premise of Ronald Fair’s short, parable-like novel, Many Thousand Gone: An American Fable (1965), is that in a rural corner of Mississippi—the fictional Jacobs County—slavery did not end in 1865 but continued uninterrupted into the 1960s through the brutal tactics of the local sheriff's office and the willing complicity of surrounding counties. Black outsiders are not allowed into Jacobs County while Black inhabitants attempting to escape are hunted down and killed. All the Black women in the county have been made sexually available to any white man for generations, resulting in the mixed blood of nearly all the enslaved population.  

When the last all-Black child, “the Black Prince,” is born, he is secreted out of the county by his great-grandmother and a family friend, and eventually makes his way north to join his father. Years later, when the Black Prince becomes a celebrated writer in Chicago, his growing fame puts an unwanted spotlight on Jacobs County, emboldening the enslaved population, exposing the white supremacists’ false sense of superiority, and setting in motion a series of events that will change everything. Will the white population change with the times? Or will they willingly see the destruction of Jacobsville—the county’s principal town—before sharing power with the Black population? 

An introduction by W. Ralph Eubanks explores Fair’s extended metaphor for Black life under Jim Crow and reflects on the power of literature to illuminate the past.

Release date: November 21, 2023

Publisher: Library of America

Print pages: 125

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