The Blacker the Berry …

Publisher: Penguin Classics
The groundbreaking Harlem Renaissance novel about prejudice within the black community
Emma Lou Morgan’s skin is black. So black that it’s a source of shame to her not only among the largely white community of her hometown of Boise, Idaho, but also among her lighter-skinned family and friends. Seeking a community where she will be accepted, she leaves home at age eighteen, traveling first to Los Angeles and then to New York City, where in the Harlem of the 1920s she finds a vibrant scene of nightclubs and dance halls and parties and love affairs . . . and, still, rejection by her own race.

One of the most widely read and controversial works of the Harlem Renaissance, and the first novel to openly address prejudice among black Americans, The Blacker the Berry . . . is a book of undiminished power about the invidious role of skin color in American society.
For more than seventy years, Penguin has been the leading publisher of classic literature in the English-speaking world. With more than 1,800 titles, Penguin Classics represents a global bookshelf of the best works throughout history and across genres and disciplines. Readers trust the series to provide authoritative texts enhanced by introductions and notes by distinguished scholars and contemporary authors, as well as up-to-date translations by award-winning translators.


Part 1

Emma Lou

More acutely than ever before Emma Lou began to feel that her luscious black complexion was somewhat of a liability, and that her marked color variation from the other people in her environment was a decided curse. Not that she minded being black, being a Negro...
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“The first novel to focus its plot on race prejudice or ‘colorism’ among African Americans . . . Apart from the vibrant character of Emma Lou, Thurman’s novel presents some of the most layered portrayals of New York City life I’ve ever come across, from seedy employment agency waiting rooms to swank Harlem hot spots.” —Maureen Corrigan, NPR’s Fresh Air