Freaknik Lawyer On Pandemic Reading List
Larry Fennelly is a veteran columnist for The Telegraph (Macon). He was writing entertaining stories for The Telegraph back in the early 1980s when I left Macon for Atlanta, Georgia, to enroll in law school. We did not meet, but Fennelly worked under Tethel White, now Brown, at what was then The Macon Telegraph.
Tethel and I were members of a writer’s group that gathered over covered dishes in the late 1970s honing our skills at the writer’s trade. Out of this writer’s group, I believe that I am the only one who went on to write a novel, Paper Puzzle, (Cascade Publishing House, Atlanta, 2010).
I met Fennelly on February 20, 2020, just before the pandemic hit, or at least a nanosecond before shelter in place became the order of the day. The Washington Memorial Library invited me to speak during their Author Series,’ Black History Month observance.
Fennelly and a handful of interested souls braved a cold rainy February night to hear me talk about my memoir, Freaknik Lawyer: A Memoir on the Craft of Resistance, (Cascade Publishing House, Atlanta, 2019).
In his March 29, 2020 column titled Facing the truth of our past, Fennelly had this to say about my presentation at the library:
“The Washington Library hosted Harold Michael Harvey, author of Freaknik Lawyer: A Memoir on the Craft of Resistance, an engaging first-hand narrative of local history. Harvey, one of three young men who integrated Lanier Junior High in 1965, gives the reader a front-row seat to the social upheaval as ‘the curse of Plessy’ gave way to ‘the promise of Brown,’ and many whites abandoned public education.
Harvey gives the reader a report on many of the events of the 1960s and ’70s, for example, the Poor People’s March. Those who resided here in that era will recognize a great number of names and events: Judge William Bootle, Frank Johnson, Mary Wilder, Tethel White (later, Brown), Alex Habersham, “The Macon Courier,” the Jesuits, and many more.”
He closed this piece rhetorically, asking the readers, where is their courage to tackle the painful errors of the past.
In his July 12 column, During pandemic, books can take us away, give us perspective, Fennelly starts with another rhetorical question. “Read any good books lately?”
Fennelly hastens to add, that in times of stress and uncertainty, he prefers “to revisit books that had been the ‘companions’ of our youth. For him, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle classic, The Hound of the Baskervilles,” is an old companion that can take you away from the incessant drum-beat of coronavirus blues.
Then he notes that last month The Telegraph published a list of books to read during the pandemic. All national titles and worthy, yet safe reads, because the issues seem far off, leaving the locals detached without acknowledging how the social ills of society play out in the context of the Macon community.
At this point, Fennelly answers his rhetorical question:
“I suggest, however, that there is so little awareness of local history during the years when Macon was making the decisions that still haunt us today, that some works from that period would make-up a very useful local pandemic reading list, especially for those under 40.”
On his list is Lillian Smith’s Memory of a Large Christmas, Now Is the Time, and the novel Strange Fruits. Next up is the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr’s, Where Do We Go From Here: Chaos or Community.
In third place, Fennelly writes, “A more recent book about the era of desegregation is Harold Michael Harvey’s Freaknik Lawyer, a 2019 account of school integration in Macon. Readers will recognize many of the names.”
Hodding Carter II’s, So the Hefner’s Left McComb, brings up the rear.
Fennelly closes his soliloquy, “My favorite on this list are the works by Harvey and Carter.” Imagine that, Freaknik Lawyer preferred over the works of Lillian Smith and Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.