The summer of 1898 is filled with ups and downs for 11-year-old Moses. He's growing apart from his best friend, his superstitious Boo-Nanny butts heads constantly with his pragmatic, educated father, and his mother is reeling from the discovery of a family secret. Yet there are good times, too. He's teaching his grandmother how to read. For the first time she's sharing stories about her life as a slave. And his father and his friends are finally getting the respect and positions of power they've earned in the Wilmington, North Carolina, community. But not everyone is happy with the political changes at play and some will do anything, including a violent plot against the government, to maintain the status quo. One generation away from slavery, a thriving African American community—enfranchised and emancipated—suddenly and violently loses its freedom in turn-of-the-century North Carolina when a group of local politicians stages the only successful coup d'etat in US history.
Crow depicts the story of the North Carolina community which was deeply-rooted in racism in the 1800's. It was a time where the American society had yet to reach its peak in civilization. It breaks my heart to see how Moses as a 12-year-old child had to suffer various insults and unfair treatments just because of his skin colour. Even though the Constitution guarantees equal rights to all citizens, blacks were considered a class lower than the whites due to their long history in slavery.
Moses' dad was a man of honour and mettle. He was very open in Moses' education and was very patient and understanding whenever Moses made a mistake. He was Moses' early mentor and role model. Moses' grandma boo-nanny was also an interesting character with a tragic past, which led her to disbelieve all whites, thinking them as no-good. She was very adept at making potions to treat illnesses and telling ghost stories.
The story builds up to the occurrence of the Wilmington Insurrection of 1898, the only successful coup d'etat in American history, and a tragic reminder of what can happen when prejudice, racism and distrust takes root in a society.
The 'white supremacy' notion reminds me of the 'ketuanan Melayu' (Malay premiere rights) in my own country. Although not as extreme as the 'white supremacy' in 1800's America, it still divides the people between Malay and not-Malay, and this goes deeper into social (school funding, sponsorship and study opportunities abroad), economics (exclusive financial support for Malay businesses and start-ups, exclusive discounts when purchasing houses), and politics (the Prime Minister must be a Malay) issues. We do have our own history of violence (the May 13th incident), caused by racial misunderstanding.
Told from the view from a 12-year-old, Crow is scarily authentic, sad but ultimately hopeful - in the closing scene, Moses' white friend Thomas teaches him his secret crabbing technique and the sun reflects the colors of the rainbow through the sprays of water they sling at each other.