Preserving an engaging, little-known slice of American life, The Dark Side of Hopkinsville is a collection of ten picaresque tales bearing witness to a black child's life in a southern town at the turn of the century.
Born and reared in Hopkinsville, Kentucky, Ted Poston (1906-1974) became the first black career-long reporter for a major metropolitan daily (the New York Post) and served as a member of Franklin D. Roosevelt's "Negro Cabinet" in Washington in 1940. After thirty-five years at the Post, Poston was without question the "Dean of Black Journalists."
Acquainted with the major figures of the Harlem Renaissance, Poston regaled his associates with tales of his childhood. These memories resulted in the stories collected in The Dark Side of Hopkinsville. Told from the vantage point of "Ted," a bright, high-spirited student at Booker T. Washington Colored Grammar School, the stories focus on a coterie of imaginative children, their entertainments and games, ties to the church, and relations with immediate and extended families.
The memorable, recurring characters in the stories are based on individuals Poston knew: Cousin Blind Mary, a fortune teller who can see into someone's future only after consulting with the servants of the family in question; Ted's father, Ephraim, "the only Negro Democrat in our Hopkinsville, Kentucky, or in the whole state of Kentucky for that matter"; Fertilizer Ferguson, whom Ted credits with coining the phrase "eating higher up on the hog"; and Ted's schoolmate Knee Baby Watkins, the "catalytic agent who precipitated the most disasterous social feud in the history of Hopkinsville." Though the presence of prejudice--both within and outside the race--is acknowledged throughout the stories, that social reality does not lessen the characters' exuberant enjoyment of being young. After watching Bronco Billy and his black sidekick, Pistol Pete, at the nickel movie on Saturdays, Ted and his friends make Pistol Pete the hero and Bronco Billy the sidekick of their games in "The Werewolf of Woolworth's." In "The Revolt of the Evil Fairies," Ted uses Palmer's Skin Success ("guaranteed to give you a light complexion in just seven days") so that he can play Prince Charming opposite his fair-skinned sweetheart in the school play.
Kathleen A. Hauke has annotated the stories with recollections of the author's family and friends, who are often major characters in the stories. An extended biographical and critical introduction offers background information on the life and work of Ted Poston, and on old Hopkinsville and its residents.