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Old South's Old Testament

I just picked up an old copy of Roark Bradford's Ol' Man Adam an' All His Chillun (1928) and found the chapter illustrations to be delightful.  Bradford grew up in Tennessee and served in World War I, and although his major stories and novels came out in the 1920s and 1930s he is most certainly overshadowed by other Lost Generation writers, especially William Faulkner.  He later served in WWII and taught literature at Tulane.

Bradford's collection makes use of southern black dialect and Jim Crow minstrelsy stereotypes to retell Old Testament fables reset in the Old South; I suppose the black child narrator serves a sort of Scheherazade like conceit, introducing each of the Biblical tales together for his audience.  The collection became the basis of a prize winning, popular drama about the South, Green Pastures (1929) and many of the nostalgic themes would of course appear in Margaret Mitchell's Gone With the Wind (1936).  Green Pastures on stage and television provided a not uncontroversial vehicle for many African-American actors in the 1930s to the 1960s.

The greatest part of the book, however, remain the whimsical illustrations which recast the familar Old Testament into the world of the Plantation South replete with steamboats, top hats, whiskers, and belles.  Enjoy.


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