Tuesday, September 18, 2007

Cute white chick outwits GIANT NEGRO!!

Since I launched this blog last December, one post has drawn more attention from across the internets than any other: “Attack of the GIANT NEGROES!!”

All summer, the giant Negroes have been discovered and pointed to by fans of American weirdness. My post was cited last week by the law-professor clique at BlackProf.com. And yesterday, a MetaFilter commenter linked to it, sending hundreds of new eyeballs here.

Nobody doesn’t like the giant Negroes.

All of which reminds me: there’s one giant-Negro story I never got around to writing about. So here it is now.

It’s about Sallie Kline, a 21-year-old “flapper” and Smith College graduate who, having fallen asleep on a sofa in her father’s Manhattan apartment, woke up to discover a burglar creeping around in the darkness.

She didn’t realize at first, but this wasn’t any old burglar. This was a “huge negro burglar.”

The New York Times reported Sallie Kline’s story on April 30, 1922. And much of the tale was told in Miss Kline’s own voice. Here’s what she said happened, after she saw the beam of the burglar’s flashlight moving around her father’s library and settling upon a desk:
SALLIE KLINE: It would have been stupid for me to yell, wouldn’t it, with father and mother and my brother Edward away back in the apartment. They probably would not have heard me. First I thought whether I looked nice. I really thought I’d vamp him.

So I said: “What are you doing there? I know you’re a burglar, but why don’t you try some of the rich families. We are poor – really we are.”

The light then was turned upon me. The burglar could see me plainly. I heard his voice. “I want your ‘vallables,’ ” he said. I especially noticed that word. Then I knew the burglar was a foreigner. He repeated he wanted our “vallables.”

“We have only a few here,” I said, “you are wasting your time.” Again – “why don’t you go to some rich people?” It seemed at first as if the man was going to do something rash, but I thought I could manage him.

“How did you get in here?” I asked.

“I came in through that window,” he said, and he pointed with the light to the open library window, which is about ten or twelve feet above the street. I had left this window open when I went to sleep. He said he had scaled the wall.

The conversation really was becoming interesting. I reasoned with him, and bargained with him, too. I told him that if he would go quietly out he probably would find some persons who did not need their “vallables,” and besides that I would scream if he did not go.

“My father is a large man and if I scream he will surely come, and my brother is there, too, and besides, you wouldn’t hurt me if I screamed, would you?” He said, no he wouldn’t.

“If you’ll go quietly I won’t squeal on you or tell the police – or anything,” I told him.

He seemed to agree with me that to go out quietly would be better all around, and with a few more words I had convinced him that this would be the best course. But before he went I decided to see whether or not he had taken anything from the desk.

So I said: “Come over here.” And, what do you think, he came right over near the sofa. “Are you sure you haven’t taken anything?” I asked.

“No, ma’am, I swear I haven’t.”

“Turn out your pockets.” And he turned out his coat pockets and his trousers pockets and turned the flashlight on them. He kept the light away from his face all the time, though.

“All right,” I said, “now you can go if you promise me one thing. Don’t take anything.”

“I promise,” he said.

“All right, then, shake!” The hand that was thrust into mine was large and black. I realized then for the first time that I had been talking to a huge negro burglar; but let me say right here that he was the nicest burglar I could have met. Do you think I would tell the police on him – anyway, I wouldn’t recognize him, because I didn’t see his face. ...

He climbed out the same way he got in – he literally hung for a few seconds and then dropped to the street. Just as soon as he had left the window I went to it and saw him walking, unhurriedly, mind you, toward Riverside Drive. There he turned the corner and disappeared.

Then I thought a minute to make sure it had not been a terrible dream, and then I ran back in the apartment and wakened my brother Edward. I realized that if I waited until the morning to tell the family they would say I had had a dream. ...

But really I’d like to do something for that burglar. I told him to be a sport, and he was a sport. I’m a sport, too, and so I wouldn’t yell. ...


Bay Radical said...

You've clearly struck a GIANT chord with your investigations into this phenomenon. Seriously, the giant negro post is great because it shows off your ability to prod people to think about stereotypes through humor and exposing our own cultural values. I'm not surprised its so popular.

This article takes it all a step further of course. Can't you just picture her tiny alabaster hand cradling his massive ebony mitt? It's the stuff of (racist) children's books.

Thembi said...

WOW! This is genius.
As to this story - come ON. You're robbing someone's house and start a negotiation? What kind of Keystone Cops-esque mess is this, the episode of What's Happening when the robber keeps going "Right, right...gotcha"?

jena6 said...

This article takes it all a step further of course. Can't you just picture her tiny alabaster hand cradling his massive ebony mitt? It's the stuff of (racist) children's books.

LOL! Word.

Reading this story, I immediately thought about that story back in 2005 about the white woman who was being held hostage by a muscular, tall, powerfully built, black man named Brian Nichols. (He was being tried for a rape case when he went on a deadly shooting spree.) The hostage Ashley Smith talked to him to make him feel comfortable, and gain his trust.

She read Nichols passages from the Bible; she also read to him from the devotional book "The Purpose Driven Life." I guess you can say they bonded. He told her that she was his "angel, sent from God". Then they hauled his black ass off to jail.

Smith even wrote a book about the ordeal.

Edshugeo The GodMoor said...

Wasn't there some meth involved with the Brian Nichol's case? Makes me wonder if there was more to Sallie Kline's negotiations, than could be told or printed in a newspaper. Or maybe I'm fond of certain stereotypes myself.

dez said...

^ "I was robbed by Mandingo"?

bill said...

First I thought whether I looked nice. I really thought I’d vamp him. Vamp, what a great word. Reminds me of the Eubie Blake song "If you've never been vamped by a Brownskin, you've never been vamped at all."


I just digitized the cast album of Eubie! and I think Gregory Hines sings the song. I'm still cleaning up the sound, but will try and get it up in the vox tonight.

bill said...

Brian Nichols' trial may begin soon. From the Atlanta Journal Constitution:

Brian Nichols' attorneys say they have no funds left

Whatever happened to Ashley Smith

Battle over Nichols' mental status begins

Lola Gets said...

Im so conflicted. I dont know if I should be proud of the way a fellow Smithie managed to negotiate herself out of being robbed, or should I be pissed off at the racially biased reporting (and possibly the policework, too)?! Ah screw it, Im tired.


jena6 said...

Brian Nichols' trial may begin soon.

What a coincidence. I only thought about this guy after reading UBM's latest "giant negro" story.

I'm surprised there hasn't been a made for tv movie--told from Ashley Smith's P.O.V.--about it.

Undercover Black Man said...

Thembi wrote: "As to this story - come ON."

The turned-out pockets was where she lost me.

bill said...

Two from the 1978 musical, "Eubie!"

If You've Never Been Vamped By a Brownskin, You've Never Been Vamped At All. Marion Ramsey & Company
Gee, I Wish I Had Someone To Rock Me In The Cradle Of Love. Ethel Beatty. Immediately followed by duet with Gregory Hines -- Low Down Blues/Cradle of Love. This track is why I've remembered this show for almost 30 years. I had a huge crush on Ethel Beatty.

Undercover Black Man said...

^ Fantastic, Bill. Share your music here any time.