Geniece is a young African-American student at the city college of Oakley College when we first meet her. She is determined to get an education, which she sees as the only way out of the segregationist mentality of most of America. At least it’s a chance. What was it like in the 1960s to be proud of one’s race and yet be mocked if one was not militant in one’s beliefs and responses to the surrounding white world?
Judy Juanita charts the path of her protagonist to show how this young woman slowly acquired a sense of her “black-ness.” Initially, it is her friend Allwood who initiates her into the writings of Frederick Douglass, W.E.B. Dubois, Malcolm X, Stokely Carmichael, and others who intelligently wrote about race in the United States. She’s fascinated by this world that doesn’t quite seem real, especially through the haze of constant pot smoking. Then it’s on to her political education via Fanon, Marx, Engels, Dubois (a different side of his later writings) and others. This is the world that basically elicits reaction from a militant, angry group of African-Americans who mock everything in the non-black world and who, through the Muslim religion, begin to develop a proud identity.
Geniece has to cope with family reactions to the changes they see in “Niecy.” But the space between academia and practical living can be vast, one which Geniece finally crosses and unites, exhilarated at first when she joins protests and marches but later petrified as militancy becomes a literal war. In one respect, Geniece’s observer/participant role works well, providing objectivity about this evolution into revolution via the Black Panther Party that underscores its reality. Virgin Soul is a vital read as a vivid, realistic account of this historically significant period in American history. Highly recommended!