The Black Three
by Gene Skipworth

"In jail, of all places, some good happened to you. I know what it is. It is called grace."

Skipworth assembles a diverse cast of characters in a small American town, reflecting timeworn, newly cast, and enduring values through their interactions. David, a high school senior, and his twin brothers, Samuel and Joseph, both juniors, become the first ever black basketball players on the Grayville, Tennessee, High School team. Their skills bring great success—until some nasty insults by teammates expressing ugly racial prejudice force a forfeiture when the three, whose Nigerian-born father is a successful community physician, leave before the game starts to protest their ill-treatment. That incident, along with another in which Samuel rescues another black student from being severely beaten by white bullies, put race relations and their complications squarely in the light in Grayville, a place once called a “Sundown town” because blacks were not to be seen on the streets after dark. As the issues arise and compassion and respect surprisingly follow in their wake, it is clear that real lessons have been learned that will positively affect and empower those involved.

Skipworth, a retired pastor who lives in a small town perhaps redolent of the atmosphere described in his fictional setting, has composed this fable with care. He begins by recounting, through the eyes of its various residents, the evolution of the region and then introduces the central characters and their relationships with one another as his story develops. The scenario has a cinematic feel, a ring of truth, and a genuine sense by its ending of redemption and hope, some of it spiritually based, that the author doubtless wishes to convey. It is a challenging framework that Skipworth handles expertly, offering a metaphorical work that could be read in group workshops among young adults and others exploring their American past with an eye to affecting its future.

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