From the time that he ran away to sea at sixteen, until he graduated from the University of Washington, Horace R. Cayton was a messman on a freighter, an unknowing handyman in an Alaskan brothel, a juvenile delinquent and inmate of a reform school, aMoreFrom the time that he ran away to sea at sixteen, until he graduated from the University of Washington, Horace R. Cayton was a messman on a freighter, an unknowing handyman in an Alaskan brothel, a juvenile delinquent and inmate of a reform school, a dock worker and steward on a passenger liner, and a deputy in the sheriffs office of King County, Washington.
Born in Seattle, a city then uniquely free from racial tensions and prejudices, Cayton found the privileged, secure, middle-class position of his well-to-do parents ineffectual against the gradual spread of racism that was sweeping America. His disarmingly honest autobiography is the ever-absorbing record of an intelligent, sensitive, and proud mans attempts to find identity in a confusing and conflicting chaos of black and white, in a nation that, although dedicated to equality, somehow managed to deny this ideal by almost every action.
Although his turbulent life was complicated by the color barrier--often resulting in reverses and frustrations that have rendered him close to a breakdown--this alone is not what makes Caytons book such captivating reading. Wholly lacking in self-pity or special pleading, Horace Cayton has written a personal narrative of unfailing interest on any number of scores, a book that ranks with the best of American autobiographical writing. For it manages to remain highly critical without once resorting to bitterness- to be filled with hope, though not always hopeful- and brims with compassion and bemused and acute insights into a troubled society.
It is a telling, almost poetic tribute to the resiliency of black culture.