The Negro and the Big City

In this paper, I examine the conception of “the Negro” (or “the ignorant African”) and “the Negro’s” relationship to the Big City in early SF. Specifically, I consider Wells’s The Time Machine, Wertenbaker’s “The Man from the Atom” and Du Bois’s “The Comet.” At pivotal moments in The Time Machine and “The Man from the Atom,” the narrator-protagonists imagine themselves as “Negroes” in London. In both cases, “the Negro” is conceptualized as non-knower and London is figuratively represented as “the Negro’s” unknown future. In “The Comet,” however, “the Negro” knows the operations of the Big City—New York—all too well. Moreover, “The Comet” temporarily suspends the color line, offering “the Negro” a brief opportunity to un-know these operations. In the end, I argue that these conceptions of “the Negro” provide valuable insight about the role of SF for “voices from within the veil” and voices outside of it.

Leave a Reply