Austin Reviews Snake Walkers

Austin Reviews Snake Walkers


ChickenBones: A Journal

for Literary & Artistic African-American Themes



Snake Walkers gives a good account of what family relations means. It shows

what a black family had and must do to protect itself for its own survival.



J. Everett Prewitt. Snake Walkers. Northland, 328 pages


Reviewed  by  Austin L. Sydnor, Jr.


In Snake Walkers, J. Everett Prewitt details racial atrocities in a southern community over two decades. The story begins during the late summer of 1948, on a farm outside Pine Bluff, Arkansas. A twelve-year-old witnesses the lynching of a young man called Emanuel. This youthful witness was a visitor to the farm and his cousin told him not to go to the cornfield because it was haunted. This experience traumatized him for years, as he told no one. This vision, however, inspired the boy to be a reporter and  to write about the conditions that black people were facing in America.

Anthony James Andrew, the young visionary, went on to college and was successful in receiving a degree in journalism. He was the first black assistant editor of the Dairy Tar Heel at the University of North Carolina Chapel Hill and graduated in the top ten percent of his class. He did internship at the New York Times.

Anthony couldn’t find a job in journalism, so he worked with his father in his mortician business. His father was very successful, proud, and boastful. His mother was however rather retiring, the opposite of his father. Anthony took after his mother. His father wanted his son to take over the business after he retired. He discouraged a journalism career, saying that a black person would never be a reporter—particularly at a white newspaper. At times, he thought his father was right after receiving so many rejections.

One day, he had a bad experience at the morgue—he remembered Emanuel. He stayed away from work a few days, and decided to pursue his dream. This was tough for his father scolded him, but he never gave in. Finally, a call came from the Arkansas Sun. The newspaper wanted to build a market in the black community and increase revenue. Their competition was the Republic in Little Rock. After much debate, the paper hired him a month later.

Anthony was assigned to report about the trouble that black people were having in Arkansas—particularly lynching. He was assigned to write a series of articles. The editor wanted information about a black doctor, because of his status, who was hanged twenty years ago in Evesville. The town was abandoned. This seemed strange.

Anthony went to a nearby town—Wynne. He wanted to find why the other town was abandoned. He asked questions—some people gave him direct answers, others didn’t. There was a man in Wynne, Bobby Joe Byrd, who gave him some answers. He wanted more information on him but could not find any. Anthony, however, found information on two families that lived in Evesville—the Coulters and the Williams. The Coulters moved to Detroit and the Williams settled in Cleveland.

As he was driving to Little Rock, someone shot at him. He thought it was Byrd. The editor of the newspaper gave him information about a history teacher at a college in Little Rock who wrote a book call Strange Fruit, about the lynching of black people.

Anthony was attracted to this history teacher, Carla Monroe, who was a widow. They were slow in developing their relationship—because their ideologies differed about the action that black people should take to deal with their conditions in America. Anthony was uncommitted. He was conservative. She was moderate. He wrote an article in the college newspaper about how unnecessary marching was. He wrote also that racial justice would come when black people “elevate” themselves. Carla strongly disagreed.

Anthony felt that way because none of his friends or him had had a racial encounter. Carla questions why it took him so long to get a newspaper position. He knew she was very angry and broke the conversation. He had another interest in Pine Bluff, but when he saw Carla he knew deep down he wanted to be with her.

Anthony went to Cleveland to find more information on the Williams. The Williams were a very close-knit family and respected each other. They helped each other no matter what the issues were. There was a young man in the family named Raymond. He had dreams of becoming a pool hustler. He was very good. His family wanted him to go to college. They scolded him when they found he was hustling.

He took all of the person money one evening. The person who lost the money had to rob a store to get the money he lost. He was later killed. His friend Roach blamed Raymond. On the street, you don’t take all a person’s money. Roach was out to get him. Anthony found out about the set-up. He saved Raymond’s life. The Williams’ family thanked Anthony. Raymond knew he was good at hustling and wanted another chance to try again. Some young men were looking at Raymond, and wanted to be a pool hustler as well. Raymond gave them good advice not to be a hustler but finish school because there is nothing on the street that will last.

Raymond gave up hustling and decided to go to college. Anthony felt a very good feeling about them because he was accepted and when Carla arrived in Cleveland, she was accepted as well. When one Williams’ family came to Cleveland, each of them made sure that they were situated well. There seemed to be a family reunion every Sunday. Anthony did not experience this in his family. When there was a family reunion, his father would brag about his success and thought that if a black person who does not go to college, he or she was not intelligent. There were divisions in Anthony’s family, but there was unity in the Williams.

The editor of the newspaper called Anthony to come back to Little Rock. The police department was interesting in the incident. Anthony was wondering why since he did not complete his investigation why was he coming back. The editor did not give him any further answer. Raymond still did not find any more information on Byrd. While at home, his father and mother were arguing about the financial situation. He had never seen his mother so outspoken as she questioned her husband about an affair he was having with one of the employees at the funeral business and losing money on gambling.

The Williams’ family found that Anthony was a reporter. They thought that he was accusing them of the tragedy in Evesville. Carla overheard that the Williams’ family left the town because they murdered the sheriff and the white people there. The information was that a black family retaliated because one of their own was hanged. All the elders had a meeting and they chose Raymond to use poison on Anthony.

Raymond was very depressed as he was walking to Anthony’s apartment. Roach was healed and wanted another shot at Raymond. But Anthony saved Raymond again. Raymond disposed of the poison.

Anthony found out why the newspaper hired him. He was not the first black reporter at the newspaper. The first person later went to the Washington Post. Anthony was wondering why the person left and his notes were incomplete. He called him and found the truth. He later told the editor of the Arkansas Sun that he could found no other information about the tragedy in Evesville, so the editor fired him and called him degrading names.

The editor was using Anthony because he was working for the Ku Klux Klan. Byrd was working for the FBI and helped Anthony in the investigation as an undercover Klan. As Anthony was cleaning out his desk and leaving the newspaper, some white men attacked him but Byrd came to help Anthony. The rival newspapers, Republic and the Washington Post, exposed the editor of the Arkansas Sun as a Klan man. There was a big decline at the Arkansas Sun and many people lost their jobs. Anthony had mixed feeling—he wanted to see the newspaper exposed but didn’t want people to lose their jobs.

Anthony informed Carla what the Williams had intended for him. Carla was suspicious. Anthony didn’t feel that way. He felt for the first time accepted and told Carla what he saw as a child. Carla revealed that her husband and her were arguing and he was drinking when he had an automobile accident.

After a beautiful Sunday with the Williams, that evening they told what happened in Evesville. The Williams defended themselves when white men came to attack them. After the story was told, Anthony found who Emanuel was—he was the member of Coulter’s family. The Coulter’s family left because they were scared and the Williams’ family regretted what they had done and became. They had to do it to survive. The Klan wanted revenge and they were using Anthony.

Anthony received a call from the hospital that Byrd was shot. His cover had been revealed. He visited him, and both agreed that the problem in the South as well as America was not over. Byrd was going to continue what he was assigned to do and Anthony as well. Byrd remained in the South and Anthony moved north.

After Anthony came from the hospital, Carla asked him did he take someone with him. He said no. Carla was upset. Anthony said they wouldn’t understand. His friends were removed from these situations. Carla noticed he changed. He hugged her and said: “that’s what staring death in the face does to you

Anthony had another encounter where he witnessed the lynching. This time was he had the upper hand. Some men where chasing him, but he eluded them. He was driving as fast as he could, but they still pursued him. They fired shots. He couldn’t fire back because he left his gun in the trunk. His car was hit and could not be moved.

He ran and went back to the woods and thought of a way so they could not find him. He knew the woods better than them as he tricked them in shooting at each other. One of the men dropped his gun and Anthony pick it up. For a second, he wanted to shoot one of them—but he didn’t. This was not his nature to do as they did to Emanuel.

Byrd called Anthony the next day. He was surprised Byrd knew. Byrd had one of his men to help, but Anthony didn’t needed.

Anthony and Carla settled in Cleveland. She finally met his parents before they left Little Rock. They felt the warmth of his parents as they said goodbye. The Williams remained the same. He went back to the woods where he witnessed what happen—not with fear but with optimism. He left marks—one at thirteen and the other at twenty-six. He wasn’t sure as a teen but sure as a man. He learned how to handle the situation by learning from the experience. He was more in control as a man. He know he can’t shake the devil, but he knows he needs to be more prepared whatever the devil will bring.

Snake Walkers gives a good account of what family relations means. It shows what a black family had and must do to protect itself for its own survival. Even though there are differences, this book shows that they must be put aside and the past should be remembered—what they endured and be ready for anything that may come.

A quote from the book: “Until the hunted have their own historians, tales of the hunt will always glorify the hunter.” He is right. We need books like this

posted 22 August 2005


A Bio Statement by Austin L. Sydnor Jr.

I was born the second child, first of twin, and first male, named after my father. I have one sister, and two brothers. I grew up on the west-side, near downtown, Baltimore. My father was an ordained minister and my mother was active in the church. Later, she became a deaconess and director the gospel chorus at the church.

My father and mother were older parents. But that did not bother me, because I realized that I did not have any choice and this was a blessing. This was the strength I needed to face whatever life or even death brought my way. I took piano lessons, but later on that was not my fortitude. It did help me later. I directed two choirs over at my mother’s church—the young people and later on her chorus.

I graduated from Baltimore City College in 1969. I had a social conscious belief in other as I met several people from high school. I participated in the S.O.U.L. School, Black Student Union, and Black United Front. I later went to Liberation House Press. I joined VISTA. This is where I learned typesetting. During 1970, there was a student rebellion, and when I was downtown, a person, Walter H. Lively, asked me to get involved in printing. I could never actually print per se, but I had an interest in pre-press, now called word processing, but back in the day it was called typesetting. I was fascinated by typesetting, because it helped me to be creative and it helped me later on to understand the art of computer through the word processing field.

I have been to several community colleges and also have courses in theology from a Baltimore seminary. I received “Employee of the Month” in 1993 at one of my employments and a certificate for computer skills at one of the local community college in the state.

Currently, I am assisting NathanielTurner.Com, ChickenBones: a Journal, with Brother Rudolph Lewis, who is the editor. I helped in word processing and scanning photographs for the journal. I have a son and two grandchildren whom I have supported.

I tried to be open-minded, persistent, and persevere. I always believe in helping the disenfranchised through many activities within the neighborhood, church affiliation, volunteer service and actively being involved with ChickenBones for the past few years. The first thing you learn is who you are, and I realize that through the good and bad situations, that I persevere through this knowledge of “who I am” and “where I need to go” to handle the condition and/or situation and not only of myself but also through the conditions of the poor and oppressed.

Some of the scriptures that interest me the most are: Psalm 84:10: For a day in the courts is better than a thousand. I had rather be a doorkeeper in the house of my God, than to dwell in the tents of wickedness; Proverbs 18:24: A man that hath friends must shew himself friendly: and there is a friend that sticketh closer than a brother; Mark 3:21: And when his friends heard of it, they went out to lay hold on him: for they said, He is beside himself; II Corinthians 5:17: Therefore if any man be in Christ, he is a new creature: old things are passed away; behold, all things are become new; and Hebrew 13:8: Jesus Christ the same yesterday, and to day, and for ever.

I pick these scriptures because I believe that theology, like in life, should be from the bottom up. The poor and oppressed people are slave in an endless cycle and they are on the bottom and do not have any way out except to reach up. Blackness is not exclusive as white Christian theology, but it includes everyone who has been rejected as Jesus of Nazareth. Jesus was rejected twice in his home town of Nazareth. As feeling like Jesus, because he was rejected on my behalf, this helps me to be accepted through his suffering, dying, and rising that He did—not for selfish glory—but the liberation of the poor and oppressed.

This helps me to endure the suffering of others—so that we all can be free. Black theology gives self-confidence, self-control, self-discipline, self-esteem, and self-interest. This theology helps us to overcome as our forefathers and mothers tried to do for us. This is not “foolish” pride or a racist ideology/theology, but a love that was way back on Calvary, that sets us free. Black theology takes risks. White theology takes risks for “worldly pleasures.” The haves (white theology) against the have-nots (black theology). I assist in ChickenBones, so that we learn from our past, live in the present, and prepare for the future. This journal is important so we will learn the truth. The Bible says “the truth will set us free.” “Living for me, living for me, all my transgression and now I am free, all because of Jesus is living for me.”

*   *   *   *   *’s 25 Best Selling Books

For July 1st through August 31st 2011  


#1 – Justify My Thug by Wahida Clark #2 – Flyy Girl by Omar Tyree #3 – Head Bangers: An APF Sexcapade by Zane #4 – Life Is Short But Wide by J. California Cooper #5 – Stackin’ Paper 2 Genesis’ Payback by Joy King #6 – Thug Lovin’ (Thug 4) by Wahida Clark #7 – When I Get Where I’m Going by Cheryl Robinson #8 – Casting the First Stone by Kimberla Lawson Roby #9 – The Sex Chronicles: Shattering the Myth by Zane

#10 – Covenant: A Thriller  by Brandon Massey

#11 – Diary Of A Street Diva  by Ashley and JaQuavis

#12 – Don’t Ever Tell  by Brandon Massey

#13 – For colored girls who have considered suicide  by Ntozake Shange

#14 – For the Love of Money : A Novel by Omar Tyree

#15 – Homemade Loves  by J. California Cooper

#16 – The Future Has a Past: Stories by J. California Cooper

#17 – Player Haters by Carl Weber

#18 – Purple Panties: An Anthology by Sidney Molare

#19 – Stackin’ Paper by Joy King

#20 – Children of the Street: An Inspector Darko Dawson Mystery by Kwei Quartey

#21 – The Upper Room by Mary Monroe

#22 – Thug Matrimony  by Wahida Clark

#23 – Thugs And The Women Who Love Them by Wahida Clark

#24 – Married Men by Carl Weber

#25 – I Dreamt I Was in Heaven – The Rampage of the Rufus Buck Gang by Leonce Gaiter


#1 – Malcolm X: A Life of Reinvention by Manning Marable #2 – Confessions of a Video Vixen by Karrine Steffans #3 – Dear G-Spot: Straight Talk About Sex and Love by Zane #4 – Letters to a Young Brother: MANifest Your Destiny by Hill Harper #5 – Peace from Broken Pieces: How to Get Through What You’re Going Through by Iyanla Vanzant #6 – Selected Writings and Speeches of Marcus Garvey by Marcus Garvey #7 – The Ebony Cookbook: A Date with a Dish by Freda DeKnight #8 – The Isis Papers: The Keys to the Colors by Frances Cress Welsing #9 – The Mis-Education of the Negro by Carter Godwin Woodson

#10 – John Henrik Clarke and the Power of Africana History  by Ahati N. N. Toure

#11 – Fail Up: 20 Lessons on Building Success from Failure by Tavis Smiley

#12 –The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness by Michelle Alexander

#13 – The Black Male Handbook: A Blueprint for Life by Kevin Powell

#14 – The Other Wes Moore: One Name, Two Fates by Wes Moore

#15 – Why Men Fear Marriage: The Surprising Truth Behind Why So Many Men Can’t Commit  by RM Johnson

#16 – Black Titan: A.G. Gaston and the Making of a Black American Millionaire by Carol Jenkins

#17 – Brainwashed: Challenging the Myth of Black Inferiority by Tom Burrell

#18 – A New Earth: Awakening to Your Life’s Purpose by Eckhart Tolle

#19 – John Oliver Killens: A Life of Black Literary Activism by Keith Gilyard

#20 – Alain L. Locke: The Biography of a Philosopher by Leonard Harris

#21 – Age Ain’t Nothing but a Number: Black Women Explore Midlife by Carleen Brice

#22 – 2012 Guide to Literary Agents by Chuck Sambuchino #23 – Chicken Soup for the Prisoner’s Soul by Tom Lagana #24 – 101 Things Every Boy/Young Man of Color Should Know by LaMarr Darnell Shields

#25 – Beyond the Black Lady: Sexuality and the New African American Middle Class  by Lisa B. Thompson

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The Price of Civilization

Reawakening American Virtue and Prosperity

By Jeffrey D. Sachs

The Price of Civilization is a book that is essential reading for every American. In a forceful, impassioned, and personal voice, he offers not only a searing and incisive diagnosis of our country’s economic ills but also an urgent call for Americans to restore the virtues of fairness, honesty, and foresight as the foundations of national prosperity. Sachs finds that both political parties—and many leading economists—have missed the big picture, offering shortsighted solutions such as stimulus spending or tax cuts to address complex economic problems that require deeper solutions. Sachs argues that we have profoundly underestimated globalization’s long-term effects on our country, which create deep and largely unmet challenges with regard to jobs, incomes, poverty, and the environment. America’s single biggest economic failure, Sachs argues, is its inability to come to grips with the new global economic realities. Sachs describes a political system that has lost its ethical moorings, in which ever-rising campaign contributions and lobbying outlays overpower the voice of the citizenry. . . . Sachs offers a plan to turn the crisis around. He argues persuasively that the problem is not America’s abiding values, which remain generous and pragmatic, but the ease with which political spin and consumerism run circles around those values. He bids the reader to reclaim the virtues of good citizenship and mindfulness toward the economy and one another.

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Sex at the Margins

Migration, Labour Markets and the Rescue Industry

By Laura María Agustín

This book explodes several myths: that selling sex is completely different from any other kind of work, that migrants who sell sex are passive victims and that the multitude of people out to save them are without self-interest. Laura Agustín makes a passionate case against these stereotypes, arguing that the label ‘trafficked’ does not accurately describe migrants’ lives and that the ‘rescue industry’ serves to disempower them. Based on extensive research amongst both migrants who sell sex and social helpers, Sex at the Margins provides a radically different analysis. Frequently, says Agustin, migrants make rational choices to travel and work in the sex industry, and although they are treated like a marginalised group they form part of the dynamic global economy. Both powerful and controversial, this book is essential reading for all those who want to understand the increasingly important relationship between sex markets, migration and the desire for social justice. “Sex at the Margins rips apart distinctions between migrants, service work and sexual labour and reveals the utter complexity of the contemporary sex industry. This book is set to be a trailblazer in the study of sexuality.”—Lisa Adkins, University of London

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The White Masters of the World

From The World and Africa, 1965

By W. E. B. Du Bois

W. E. B. Du Bois’ Arraignment and Indictment of White Civilization (Fletcher)

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Ancient African Nations

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The Death of Emmett Till by Bob Dylan  The Lonesome Death of Hattie Carroll  Only a Pawn in Their Game

Rev. Jesse Lee Peterson Thanks America for Slavery /

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The Journal of Negro History issues at Project Gutenberg

The Haitian Declaration of Independence 1804  / January 1, 1804 — The Founding of Haiti 

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updated 16 August 2008




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