Yellow Back Radio Broke-Down – Ishmael Reed (1969)

1960s: Days of Rage


Yellow Back Radio Broke-Down, by the African-American writer Ishmael Reed, is a satirical take on the traditional Western. It is Ishmael Reed’s second novel, following The Freelance Pallbearers (1967), and was first published in 1969. It tells the story of the Loop Garoo Kid, an African-American cowboy who practices the religion of Neohoodooism, and describes his struggle against established religion and cultural oppression. Yellow Back Radio Broke-Down is a western that spans some three centuries of history and references locations from across the United States landscape. Through the three colorful protagonists, Chief Showcase, a Native American, Drag Gibson, a white land capitalist, and the Loop Garoo Kid, an African-American cowboy, Reed criticizes the hypocrisy of the American Church, the warping of history to degrade the portrayal of African Americans, and ways the ‘white man’ attempts to destroy the ‘black man’. The novel’s title summarizes…

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