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  • Recovering Five Generations Hence: The Life and Writing of Lillian Jones Horace ed. by Karen Kossie-Chernyshev
  • Michael Phillips
Recovering Five Generations Hence: The Life and Writing of Lillian Jones Horace. Edited by Karen Kossie-Chernyshev. (College Station: Texas A&M University Press, 2013. Pp. 280. Illustrations, notes, index.)

In 1916, Lillian Jones Horace became the first published African American novelist in Texas and one of the first black publishers in American history when she printed her racial separatist novel, Five Generations Hence. A public school teacher who spent much of her career in Fort Worth, she called for black immigration to Africa early in her writing career. Her work later focused on the more conventional aims of defeating racism and sexism at home; yet, this pioneer author, publisher, and educator, whose second novel, Angie Brown, went unpublished in her lifetime, died in obscurity in 1965.

Horace went unnoticed by scholars until the publication in 1995 of Carol Farley Kessler’s Daring to Dream: Utopian Fiction by American Women before 1950, which included an extract from Five Generations Hence, with the work attributed to “Lillian Jones.” Historians ignored this woman’s legacy until Kossie-Chernyshev found the Horace papers at the Fort Worth Public Library and pieced together Horace’s biography, connecting the Lillian Jones who wrote Five Generations Hence to the Lillian Horace who authored Angie Brown. Unearthing Horace’s life story and accomplishments [End Page 102] has become a large part of Kossie-Chernyshev’s career since. Recovering Five Generations Hence represents the culmination of this scholarship.

This volume contains the full novel referenced in the title along with a series of papers on Horace’s career delivered at the Celebrating the Life and Works of Lillian B. Horace and Other Extraordinary Women of the Jim Crow Era symposium Kossie-Chernyshev organized at Texas Southern University in 2009. Five Generations Hence portrays a teacher named Grace Noble who has a vision of black people living in happiness and prosperity and building a vibrant economy and culture away from white American racism in Africa five generations in the future. Horace’s novel came before Marcus Garvey’s Back to Africa movement had become a nationwide phenomenon. The novel largely focuses on Noble’s life and romances and ends before the African utopia is created. Horace’s novel is really less about a utopian fantasy than a tale of black female empowerment at a time of white economic exploitation and violence.

The novel provides an excellent snapshot of African American elites one hundred years ago. Horace, like W. E. B. Du Bois, sees blacks advancing at the behest of intellectuals like herself, the “Talented Tenth.” She held the African American poor somewhat in disdain. Like most people in the United States in the early twentieth century, both white and black, she saw Africa as a savage place that she hoped African Americans would “civilize.” Her view of women as independent actors, relying on each other as they uplifted the race, however, seems particularly revolutionary.

Veteran scholars of African American history, such as Bruce A. Glasrud, Bryan M. Jack, and Veronica Watson, an expert in African American literature, provide highly informative essays that helpfully point the way to future research on black writers in the American Southwest, African American women’s history in Texas, and class relations within the African American community. Kossie-Chernyshev’s work represents a significant contribution to the understanding of black feminism and the long civil rights movement in Texas during the first half of the twentieth century. She has rescued Horace from invisibility and will inspire scholarly debates on this pioneer’s significance for years to come.

Michael Phillips
Collin College