Since the Civil War white male writers of the American South have created fond fictions about childhood friendships that crossed the color line. For example, much of the poignancy of Faulkner's The Unvanquished (1938) comes from Bayard Sartoris's description of the close relationship he had with a black servant boy Ringo in the Mississippi small town that will separate them as they grow older and that from the beginning marked them as different, based on race. After their boyhood games and real Civil War adventures together, Bayard and Ringo grow up to be, not close friends, but master and faithful servant when Bayard departs for Ole Miss. Representations of true friendships between blacks and whites beyond the period of childhood innocence have only recently begun to emerge. Contemporary Southern novelists like Larry Brown and Madison Smartt Bell begin their interracial buddy novels where earlier fiction about male friendships ended--when innocent boys become racially self-conscious men.

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Copyright © 1999 University of South Carolina Press. This chapter first appeared in The Southern State of Mind.

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