As a student at Paine College in the mid-1930s, Frank Yerby published “Salute to the Flag” in the November 1936 issue of the school’s newspaper The Paineite. Eight years later, Yerby won the O’Henry prize for his short story “Health Card,” a story that focuses on a Black serviceman and his wife during World War II. I mention this story because “Salute to the Flag” also focuses on a serviceman that experiences racism at the hands of the countrymen he has fought for overseas during World War I. The story is, essentially, a prose form of the dramatic monologue. The unnamed narrator is dying, and a doctor is trying to save him as they speed towards the hospital. The narrator tells the doctor why he chooses not to salute the flag that he fought for during the war.
Lately, I have been focusing on the Africanist presence in Nathaniel Hawthorne’s “The Minister’s Black Veil,” and this exploration has led me to consider it in other texts written by Hawthorne, specifically “My Kinsman, Major Molineux.” This examination intrigues me because while doing preliminary research, I have not seen many scholars address how Hawthorne explores concepts of race and even slavery in his early texts. Reading Larry J. Reynolds’ Devil and Rebels (2008), the scholarly focus appears to be more on Hawthorne’s views later in the 1850s and even during the Civil War, centering on his pacifism and apparent indebtedness to the Democrats.
Last year, I wrote about Nathaniel Hawthorne’s “The Minister’s Black Veil” and slavery. This semester, I taught the story again, and this time, I became more intrigued by the correlations between the Hawthorne’s tale and issues of race and abolitionism that circled around the nation during the period. The story originally appeared in the 1832 edition of The Token and Atlantic Souvenir; later, Hawthorne collected it in Twice-Told Tales (1837). Initially, the story appeared three years after David Walker’s Appeal (1829), one year after Nat Turner’s Rebellion (1831), and one year after William Lloyd Garrison started The Liberator (1831). Simply put, “The Minister’s Black Veil” arrived at an important moment surrounding the abolitionist movement.