"KEY TO A RECONSTRUCTION OF A BLACK RADICAL LITERARY TRADITION": FIRST EDITION OF CHICAGO NOVELIST FRANK LONDON BROWN'S FIRST NOVEL, TRUMBULL PARK, 1959, A VERY SCARCE ASSOCIATION COPY, ACCOMPANIED BY MAYHEW'S RACIAL TERROR AT TRUMBULL PARK, 1954
BROWN, Frank London. Trumbull Park. WITH: Mayhew Howard. Racial Terror at Trumbull Park, Chicago. Chicago: Henry Regency; Pioneer, 1959, 1954. Octavo, original blue cloth, original dust jacket. Slim octavo, original self-wrappers; pp. 1-3, (15) (). $1250.
First edition of Brown's first novel, praised on publication by Langston Hughes and hailed as "vigorous and exciting" by the New Yorker, issued the same year as the Broadway premiere of Hansberry's Raisin in the Sun—in effect opening its story at her play's conclusion—a distinctive association copy with laid-in printed slip from the Frank London Brown Trust Fund addressed to fellow author and activist Jack Conroy in the year of Brown's death, this copy accompanied by Mayhew's Racial Terror at Trumbull Park.
Brown, a groundbreaking novelist, activist and labor organizer, was catapulted into fame with publication of Trumbull Park, his first novel and the only one published in his short life. The novel, which affirmed "his place within the Chicago Black Renaissance," was triggered by the violent racism that confronted the Howards, a young Black family, when they moved to Chicago's all-white Trumbull housing project in 1953 (Chicago Literary Hall of Fame). They were permitted to move there largely "because Betty Howard, who was fair-skinned, had not been perceived as Black" by the Housing Authority (Daily Calumet). Attacks swiftly began "with almost 50 white teenagers throwing rocks, bricks and other objects at the home of the Howards… [and using] aerial 'bombs,' which propelled a series of charges and exploded with a bright flash and deafening thunder. On the worst nights, perpetrators detonated 100 of these devices… resistance was so great that 1200 police officers accompanied the several Black families that moved into the development… whites attacked Black residents as they walked the streets in the area, even threatening them with lynching if they took certain routes" (Rubinowitz & Perry, Crimes without Punishment, 394-95).
Brown's novel is also grounded on the violence he and his own family faced when they moved to Trumbull Park in 1954. In its publication the same year Lorraine Hansberry's Raisin in the Sun premiered on Broadway, Trumbull Park effectively begins where her play ends. The novel won praise in the New Yorker as "vigorous and exciting," and Langston Hughes highlighted Brown's focus on "his own people… their warmth, their humor, their language, their blues" (Jet magazine). Brown was also involved "in crucial incidents of the Civil Rights movement of the 1950s and 1960s. His work, Rachel Swearingen wrote, was 'arguably dangerous, as he earned an infamous 'index card' from the FBI in 1955,' meaning that the agency perceived him as a threat to national security" (Rooney, JSTOR Daily). His early death at 34 from a long illness is viewed as "one of the major tragedies of contemporary African American literature" (Oxford Companion, 101-2).
While his work has been long neglected, he is increasingly esteemed as "key to a reconstruction of a Black radical literary tradition. One of the people who knew Brown well was poet Gwendolyn Brooks who wrote a poem in his memory… Titled Of Frank London Brown: a Tenant of the World, it honors him as 'a beloved and charismatic leader… our scrupulous pioneer'" (Washington, Desegregating the 1950s, 27). Accompanying this copy is Howard Mayhew's Racial Terror at Trumbull Park, Chicago, which documents attacks on the Black families, and actions by the NAACP. (Trumbull Park): first edition, first printing: with no statement of edition or printings on the copyright page; first issue dust jacket with $3.95 price on the front flap. (Racial Terror): first separate edition of July and August 1954 articles in The Militant. With printed "August 1954" on copyright page; staple-bound as issued. This memorable association copy contains a laid-in printed document from the Frank London Brown Trust Fund, addressed to "Jack Conroy" in an unidentified cursive, and dated in ink, "4/24/62." Conroy, born in a coal-mining camp to Irish immigrants, was best known for his autobiographical novels, The Disinherited (1933), "one of the neglected classics of American literature," and A World to Win (1935) (Franklin, Jack Conroy Reader, xii). He was, as well, a frequent co-author with African American poet and novelist Arna Bontemps on works such as They Seek a City (1945) and Anyplace But Here (1965). Conroy, who died in 1990, lived in Chicago from the late 1930s to mid-1960s, where he would certainly have known Frank London Brown.
Book fine; light edge-wear to spine ends of bright near-fine dust jacket; near-fine pamphlet with light edge-wear, mild soiling to fragile wrappers