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1 rating: 3.0
A book by Mat Johnson

The brows are furrowed and teeth mightily clenched in Pleece's noirish artwork for Johnson's pulpy tale of a black journalist who goes undercover in the 1930s South to investigate a possible trumped-up murder charge against his brother—a charge … see full wiki

Tags: Book
Author: Mat Johnson
Publisher: Vertigo
1 review about Incognegro

Going Incognegro for the Cause

  • Apr 22, 2008
  • by
The term "incognegro", a play on the word "incognito" was coined to describe a Black person trying to maintain a low profile or who is racially ambiguous; who could pass for White. The Black man that usually comes to mind is Walter White, one of the founders of the NAACP who went undercover in the South to investigate lynching of Negroes. Thus, in Mat Johnson's latest literary offering, a graphic novel, Incognegro, has Zane Pinchback, a journalist going to Mississippi to prevent a lynching---that of his own twin brother, Alonzo.

There were 2,522 lynchings of Negroes between 1889 and 1918. A great majority of these lynchings occurred in the South for the smallest infractions, real or imagined. A great many of the allegations were bogus accusations of Negro men assaulting White women. Zane decides he will hang up his investigative shoes as it becomes increasingly dangerous as his undercover status is compromised. He wants to become an editor and turn his attention to personal writing. But his brother is being held in a Mississippi jail for killing a White woman; he knows he has to go back. His co-worker, Carl, also fair-skinned and able to pass for white talks his way into going with him but Zane is worried because he is young and hot-headed. When they arrive in the small town, he uses a guise to get into the jail and see his brother, who though they are twins, is obviously Negro. Meanwhile as Zane works on getting his brother freed, incognegro, of course, Carl assimilates into the community doing his own investigation but soon finds himself in a dangerous situation when his lies start running together. Zane's investigation takes him to the hills and backwoods where he stumbles upon a mystery and realizes he must work fast to free his brother.

Johnson used a different sort of literary device, a growing trend, the graphic novel, better known as a comic book in hardback cover illustrated by artist, Warren Pleece. Reminiscent of the old Dick Tracy or Mary Worth comics, the subject matter is serious with just enough tongue-in-cheek humor. This is an ideal device to encourage adolescents into reading about a vital part of African American history while they enjoy what appears to be a comic book. Johnson has long wanted to do this kind of project and the birth of his twin sons provided the impetus when the quirk of genetics had one born brown and one white looking. I applaud Johnson for stretching his artistic muscles and stepping outside the box while telling a part of American history.

Dera R. Williams
APOOO BookClub

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