David Played a Harp: A Free Man’s Battle for Independence (review)

David Played a Harp: A Free Man's Battle for Independence, by Ralph W. Johnson (Blackwell Ink, Inc., 2000).

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David Played a Harp: A Free Man’s Battle for Independence (review)

by Hunter James
Southern Cultures, Vol. 8, No. 1: Spring 2002

Blackwell Ink, Inc., 2000.

Nowadays, way too many of society’s “victims” are mere poseurs. Not Ralph W. Johnson, who was at once victim and beneficiary of possibly the most eccentric practice ever to take root in the Jim Crow era. What a curious tale! For Ralph Johnson was a black man who spent his entire adult life as proprietor of a whites-only barbershop. This is not to say that his was a unique situation, but what is exceptional is his ability to tell a riveting story doubtless familiar to many another black barber who either owned or worked in an establishment that catered only to the white trade.