Under the Knife: How a Wealthy Negro Surgeon Wielded Power in the Jim Crow South
by Hugh Pearson
Just as he skillfully deconstructed the Black Panthers in his groundbreaking The Shadow of the Panther, Hugh Pearson presents in Under the Knife a familial tale of a different kind of black power that evades our most ingrained social clichés.
Pearson’s uncle, Dr. Joseph Griffin, lived in segregated Georgia and moved up the socioeconomic ladder by secretly performing abortions and treating the sexually transmitted diseases of the white folks in his community. When they couldn’t pay up, the good doctor extorted property deals from them! He also hired down-and-out blacks as butlers and chauffeurs and was a pillar in the Negro community (in a Robin Hood fashion). Pearson blends fact with rural fiction as he shows how African Americans in the era before the civil rights movement were sometimes able to outsmart the bigoted whites who, in a cosmic twist of fate, depended on them when the chips were down. —Eugene Holley Jr.