BETTER THAN GOOD: A Black Sailor's War 1943-45.
Author Adolph Newton was one of very few African Americans to serve in general enlisted ranks rather than as a mess attendant. With brutal honesty, he recounts views and experiences with southern blacks, prejudiced whites and encounters with Europeans.
Like many young men, Adolph Newton forged his parents’ signatures at seventeen to join the Navy and fight the Japanese in the Pacific. But unlike others, Newton was black and became one of the very few African Americans to serve in the general enlisted ranks rather than as a mess attendant serving meals to officers and cleaning their quarters. In this intense, long-overdue memoir, he describes his life as a black seaman on an integrated warship, explaining how he attempted to deal with discrimination and personal freedom and how, despite the difficulties, he developed a lasting affection for the Navy. Newton’s story is representative of a generation of African Americans who came of age during the war, needing to prove themselves by fighting for a country that had denied them the full benefits of citizenship. A landmark work, it is the first memoir to be published by a black sailor in the forefront of Roosevelt’s order to integrate the Navy.
With brutal honesty and a gift for turning a phrase, Newton puts the reader in his shoes as a naïve but proud teenager forced to adapt to the Navy’s rules and discipline and to the rejection of shipmates, all the while coping with the stress of combat and an international carnival of dangers and temptations. Based on journals he kept during the war, the book retains the raw emotions and expressions of a young sailor in the 1940s. He speaks candidly of race relations and how his views evolved from conversations with southern blacks, confrontations with prejudiced whites, and encounters with Europeans. And his story does not stop at war’s end. Unable to find civilian employment that utilized his technical skills, he reenlisted in 1946 only to find the Navy more rigid than during the war.
His reflections on life as a young black man who knew that just being good was not good enough make an important contribution to the record. At the same time his recountings of misdeeds, including his ribald pursuit of "the perfect liberty" and its sometimes chilling consequences, make entertaining reading.
This memoir gives a fresh, bold voice to the thousands of enlisted men, black and white, who served in the Navy during the 1940s and breaks new ground with its vivid depiction of the Navy’s awkward first steps toward integration.
"It is refreshing to come upon a true story whose richness and power derives from understatement. Such is the rare accomplishment of Better Than Good. In this stark and fast-moving tale, Adolph Newton recounts without boast or bitterness his part in breaking the Navy's color barriers."__Virginian-Pilot.
"As good an account as we'll ever see of what it was like to be a black sailor in the 1940s."__Easton.
"In a fresh new voice, this memoir reveals the raw emotions and expressions of a young black sailor"__Upscale
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