How Race Is Lived in America

Pulling Together, Pulling Apart

Correspondents of The New York Times, Introduction by Joseph Lelyveld

Times Books

On this day the boss saw something he didn't like. He climbed down and approached the picnic line from behind. He leaned into the ear of a broad-shouldered black man. He had been riding him all day, and the day before. The boss bawled him out good this time, but no one heard what was said. The roar of the machinery was too ferocious for that. Still, everyone knew what was expected. They worked harder. At shift change the black man walked away, hosed himself down and turned in his knives. Then he let go. He threatened to murder the boss. He promised to quit. He said he was losing his mind . . . . "Who that cracker think he is?" The boss walked by just then and the black man lowered his head.