Cover image for Soulcatcher and other stories
Soulcatcher and other stories
Johnson, Charles, 1948-
Personal Author:
First edition.
Publication Information:
San Diego : Harcourt, [2001]

Physical Description:
xv, 110 pages ; 21 cm
General Note:
"A Harvest original."
The transmission -- Confession -- Poetry and politics -- A soldier for the crown -- Martha's dilemma -- The plague -- A report from St. Domingue -- The people speak -- Soulcatcher -- A lion at Pendleton -- The mayor's tale -- Murderous thoughts.
Format :


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FICTION Adult Fiction Central Closed Stacks

On Order



Twelve stories about the African experience of slavery in America, by the National Book Award-winning novelist.

Nothing has had as profound an effect on American life as slavery. For blacks and whites alike, the experience has left us with a conflicted and contradictory history. Now, famed novelist Charles Johnson, whose Middle Passage won the National Book Award, presents a dozen tales of the effects and experience of slavery, each based on historical fact, and each about those Africans who arrived on our shores in shackles. From Martha Washington's management of her slaves, bequeathed to her at the death of the first president, to a boy chained in the bowels of a ship plying the infamous passage from Africa to the South laden with human cargo, from a lynching in Indiana to a hunter of escaped slaves searching the Boston market for his quarry, from an early Quaker meeting exploring resettlement in Africa to the day after Emancipation-the voices, terrors, and savagery of slavery come vividly and unforgettably to life.

These stories, told by a master storyteller, transcend history even as they present it, and retell the mythic proportions of a historical period with astounding realism and beauty, power, and emotion.

Author Notes

Charles Johnson, recipient of a 1998 MacArthur Foundation Award, is the author of five works of fiction. He is the S. Wilson and Grace M. Pollock Professor of Creative Writing at the University of Washington

Reviews 2

Booklist Review

The 12 stories in this powerful collection dramatize the PBS program Africans in America: America's Journey through Slavery, for they are based on research Johnson helped conduct for the series. That research "unveiled the fascinating and often ambiguous anecdotes, ironies, back stories, and paradoxes that inevitably arise when human beings for centuries live within an execrable social arrangement they know is unjust and fragile and ultimately doomed." Johnson, author of the prizewinning novel Middle Passage, employs a great variety of styles and images as he traces the early presence of African descendants in the U.S. in stories about the widowed Martha Washington, feeling apprehensive of slaves she had formerly trusted who have been promised freedom at her death; a slave boy, chained to others in the bowels of a slave ship, listening as his dying brother conveys the history, songs, and traditions of their village; Frederick Douglass, savagely beaten after a speech, ruminating on his relationship with abolitionists who have their own limited notions about a black man in the movement; and other piquant situations. Vanessa Bush

Library Journal Review

This strong collection of 12 short stories from National Book Award winner Johnson (Middle Passages) depicts events in African American history. It serves as a companion to his nonfiction Africans in America (LJ 9/15/98) and supports the PBS series of the same name. The brief stories, which are written in a mix of literary formats, give fascinating glimpses into the impact of historical events on individuals. Among the strongest is "The Transmission," in which two African brothers are transported on a slave ship. Because of the gruesome conditions on board, the older sibling soon approaches death but manages to pass the oral history of the tribe on to his younger brother before he dies. At times, a curious reader could use more background, but the tales generally stand up well as a volume and, in their brevity, may have particular appeal to young adults. Cathleen A. Towey, Port Washington P.L., NY (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

Table of Contents

Prefacep. ix
The Transmissionp. 1
Confessionp. 13
Poetry and Politicsp. 25
A Soldier for the Crownp. 33
Martha's Dilemmap. 41
The Plaguep. 49
A Report from St.Dominguep. 59
The People Speakp. 67
Soulcatcherp. 75
A Lion at Pendletonp. 83
The Mayor's Talep. 93
Murderous Thoughtsp. 103