Eulogy for Nigger

First published in 2007, reworked in 2008 and again in 2014, the essay has always carried the provocative title above – given by its writer David Bradley – though it has seldom been used verbatim. However, says the author, by such apparent reluctance to offend, people collude in the very wrongs he wants to right: the glossing-over of prejudice, and the denial of a distinct American ‘Nigger’ experience. This week, Notting Hill Editions awarded the eulogy its biennial £20,000 Essay Prize and published it in a new anthology. In acknowledgment and appreciation, we republish it here

David Bradley
Thursday 08 October 2015 19:42
Winning words: David Bradley, whose controversially titled essay has just won Notting Hill Editions’ Essay Prize
Winning words: David Bradley, whose controversially titled essay has just won Notting Hill Editions’ Essay Prize

DETROIT: Hundreds of onlookers cheered as the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People put to rest a long-standing expression of racism by holding a public burial for the N-word. Two Percheron horses pulled a pine box adorned with a black ribbon printed with a derivation of the word. The  coffin is to be placed at historically black Detroit Memorial Park Cemetery.

&#13; <p> Associated Press, 9 July 2007</p>&#13;

I live in the un-LA part of Southern California; I’m a little out of the loop. I didn’t know about the five-oh beat-down on Rodney King until the video went viral, and was unaware of the jury’s verdict until I smelled smoke. By the time I heard about the Low-Speed Chase, OJ’s Bronco was back in Brentwood, although I was well aware of that verdict; I heard Nancy Grace squealing like a skewered shoat [piglet] all the way from New York City. Normally, this 411-lag does not bother me; at my age, it seems most news is just old news, recycled and repainted, but in the original colour scheme. But word of Nigger’s burial shocked me. I hadn’t known Nigger was even sick.

In hindsight, I see symptoms that Nigger was ailing. The US Geological Survey started changing the names of local landmarks to get Nigger off the maps way back in ’62. In ’79, Richard Pryor declared he would speak Nigger’s name no more. In ’88, Jesse Jackson said the Americans formerly known as black should be called African-Americans to “shift the definition from the racial description to a cultural and ethnic identity”. In ’91, Niggaz Wit Attitude decided they weren’t Niggaz4Life; now they were NWA.

Still, there’d been no change in Nigger’s vital signs. Unemployment for black – excuse me, African-American – people was still twice as high as it was for non–African-Americans. The median income of African-American families was still only 61 percent of that of non–African-American families. African-Americans still lead in all Department of Justice statistical categories – arrests, convictions, length of sentence, being stopped-and-frisked, also being shot to death multiple times.

But that’s no excuse. Nigger had been my mentor; I should have kept in closer touch. Especially after the Pryor thing. You wouldn’t know it from listening to the Colored People, but Nigger was quite a comedian; he wrote half of Richard’s jokes. Richard used to say Nigger gave him strength, let him rise above. Calling Nigger’s name was “like a preacher singing hallelujah” – Richard’s words, not mine. But then he goes to Africa with a “white honky bitch” – again, his words, not mine – and comes back saying he’s sorry he ever spoke Nigger’s name. That had to hurt Nigger, not that he would have shown it. But I bet he said a few choice words about Richard’s mama, whom Nigger knew quite … frequently.

Perhaps I should not criticise; it was I who was neglectful. But the way the Colored People buried Nigger made me irate.

They did not even pretend to hold a wake, though, as everybody knows, Nigger loved a good time, especially when it was just us … chickens. He’d take whatever was on hand, cook it down, spice it up and serve it on a paper plate like it was on china at the Ritz. Then he’d bring out the libation and … well, let me put it this way: Jesus needed water; Nigger could make wine from anything. Then he’d get out his guitar. Some said the Devil did the tuning, but it was Nigger who’d wring the blues out of that old six-string, even with two strings broke. Maybe the Colored People were afraid to have a wake; even dead, Nigger would have been the life of that party.

I know the funeral was a publicity stunt/fund-raiser for the National Association. I hope they raised enough to finally let Colored retire. But a horse-drawn wagon? They’re in Detroit, and couldn’t come up with a third-hand Lincoln Continental? Nigger would have pawned his gold toothpick to send Colored off in style.

The NAACP held a public burial for the N-word

Besides cheap, that funeral was wrong. At a funeral you do not cheer, even if the departed was your landlord and you’re six weeks behind on rent. You do not deny the departed his entitles, including all initials. The “N-word?” My A-word. Nor do you diss the deceased. But that’s what the Colored People did. The mayor, Kwame Kilpatrick – now there’s a fine African-American name, or is it black Irish? – ordered “N-word” buried with “all the nonsense that went with it”. Like Nigger invented slavery, segregation and restrictive housing covenants. The Governor, an ex-Canadian Scandihoovian who did not know Nigger from Négritude, said, with Nigger gone, we could “say hello to a new country that invests in all its people”. Like it was Nigger the government had been bailing out. At least she didn’t claim Nigger interfered with her when she was a tour guide at Marine World Africa USA.

The Colored People did have a preacher. They didn’t hire him; Colored preachers do funerals for free. This one wasn’t even worth what he wasn’t paid. He said Nigger was “the greatest child racism ever birthed”. I guess his mama never told him where Colored preachers come from.

My daddy was a Colored preacher, of the African Methodist Episcopal Zion persuasion. He did not speak softly to sin. He once preached a sermon that made a cold-blooded murderer wet his pants. But he would eulogise whores, whoremongers, even lawyers, to where their own mothers wanted to recognise them. Judgment, my daddy always said, was God’s business; the Last Words spoken should be forgiving of all flaws.

Nigger had flaws. So does the US Constitution, which gave licence to the slave trade and took a cut “not exceeding ten dollars” a head. But the Colored People wouldn’t dream of burying the Constitution … and wouldn’t dare try. Legal scholars say the Constitution is a “living” document. Congress declared the third week of pro-football season Constitution Week, during which paeans are to be sung. I’m not dissing the Constitution. I’m just saying Nigger deserved better Last Words than the Colored People gave him. So I wrote a Eulogy for Nigger. It went something like this:

Friends, Americans (African and non- African), countrypersons: lend me your ears. I come to bury Nigger, not to praise him. He was my friend, faithful and just to me, but these honourable Colored People say otherwise, and I speak not to dispute, only to augment. But before you heap clods and contumelies on his coffin, you should know that Nigger was more than a word.

His name was Nigger. N-I-G-G-E-R, from the Latin masculine nominative niger meaning not just “black” but “shining black”. He was born in Virginia in the 18th century. His mother, black and comely as the bride of Solomon, was a slave and, partus sequitur ventrem, so was he. His father – free, white and wealthy – was their owner. His name was Jefferson.

Jefferson did not, of course, acknowledge Nigger as his son, but he did keep an eye on Nigger and recorded his “personal observations”. These he published in a book called Notes on the State of Virginia, which he assumed Nigger could not read.

But it was forbidden for a slave to learn to read, and even as a child Nigger would half-kill himself to do anything forbidden. Years later, he told me this trait was formed when he heard Jefferson say that he liked “a little rebellion now and then”. Nigger said he wasn’t naturally contrary, he got that way trying to please. In any case, he’d taught himself to read. One night he sneaked into the study and read Jefferson’s Notes.

When Colored People try to explain why they hate Nigger, they often describe a childhood trauma. They were eight and very small, heart-filled, head-filled with glee. Then some non-African American child called them “nigger”, and they were so devastated that’s all they can remember of Baltimore or some damn place. I wonder how they knew it was an insult. But the real question is: how did Nigger’s denotation acquire negative connotation? Answer: Jefferson’s Notes.

Nigger’s face, wrote Jefferson, was an “eternal monotony … an immoveable veil of black”. Nigger had “a very strong and disagreeable odour.” Nigger was “in reason much inferior” and “incapable of comprehending the investigations of Euclid”. Nigger might appear brave, but this was due to “a want of forethought”. Nigger’s griefs were “transient”. Nigger napped because “an animal … who does not reflect, must be disposed to sleep”. Nigger’s love was “more an eager desire, than a tender delicate mixture of sentiment and sensation”, and of “the senses only”. Nigger was “ardent after his female” but just as “the Oranootan” preferred “black women over those of his own species”, Nigger preferred white women because of their “flowing hair” and “more elegant symmetry of form”. Therefore, wrote Jefferson, were Nigger ever freed, he would have “to be removed beyond the reach of mixture”.

These words came not from the lips of some prepubescent peckerwood, but from the pen of a Founding Father who would one day be President. They included no pejoratives. Jefferson was, even by contemporary standards, politically correct. Yet young Nigger must have been devastated.

Although not to hear him tell it. Years later, Nigger denied he had been the least bit hurt. In fact, he claimed he was liberated by what Jefferson wrote in Notes. Nigger’d read in Jefferson’s draft of the “Declaration of Independence” that all men were endowed by their Creator with Rights to Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Happiness and had therefore assumed his procreator planned to set him free. Now he realised Jefferson had meant “all men … ’cept you, Nigger”, and knew he’d have to free himself. He’d already taught himself to write and – despite his alleged want of forethought – to forge Jefferson’s signature. So Nigger wrote himself a pass, took a dump in the dumbwaiter, and removed himself beyond the reach of Jefferson.

Still, where’er he wandered, Nigger found his Life, Liberty and Pursuit of Happiness obstructed by assumptions, expectations and misperceptions shaped by Jefferson’s Notes. Nigger joined the cavalry and served honourably … until they drummed him out for going horseback-riding with the colonel’s sister-in-law. Nigger starred in professional baseball until white players protested that his speed on the base-paths resulted from ape ancestry and insisted management “get that Nigger off the field”. (In other words, they wanted him thrown out because they couldn’t throw him out.) The University refused to let him take the entrance examination on account of the Euclid thing. Fortunately, one august professor thought him fit for manual training, so they hired Nigger as a janitor so he could save up for tuition at Tuskegee Institute.

Nigger took the job and got his education – and not at Tuskegee. His mother had taught him how to deal with educated whites. Years later, Nigger told me how she’d whisper in his ear: “Overcome ’em with yeses, undermine ’em with grins, agree ’em to death and destruction, let ’em swaller you till they vomit or bust wide open.” (Then she’d kiss him and go down to Jefferson’s bedchamber.) So, once hired by the University, Nigger invented work-study. Due to the testimony of Jefferson’s Notes, Nigger was presumed indolent, and could therefore prove himself industrious with slight circumstantial evidence – eg, a broom in hand. So armed, he availed himself of all unequal educational opportunities. He could not check out books or enrol in classes, but his dustbin was better than a library card – no fee for late returns – and, credentialled by a mop and pail, he could loiter, listening, in the wings of lecture halls. August professors, in amused response to his seemingly simple-minded questions, would postulate ad nauseam while he dusted their diplomas. Nigger’s name never appeared on any roster, but he audited like an M-word F-word.

Nigger loved the academic life, and published several monographs under a pseudonym. But what made him wanna holler and throw up both his hands was how often he found Jefferson’s Notes quoted, paraphrased and plagiarised in monographs, textbooks, dissertations, medical case studies and memorandums of law. He realised the sum of Jefferson’s observations had become a standard definition, as accepted – and as unquestioned – as Euclid’s theorem. Professors cited it, or at least quoted it; graduate students reiterated it to prove themselves well-read and undergraduates regurgitated it … or fail.

Realising, then, that there was no future in higher education, Nigger applied his learning to practical endeavours – patent medicines, real estate and what is now referred to as the gaming industry – though he continued working at the University to avoid suspicion. When he finally retired, his faithful floor mopping and toilet plunging was commemorated with a plaque in the basement of College Hall, across from his custodian’s closet, which was then converted to an office for the Director of Minority Recruitment.

The Colored People buried Nigger as if he were a pauper. But no one knew Nigger’s net worth because he never filed tax returns. When I met him, during his last years at the University, I suspected he was wealthy, but his only extravagances involved wine, women, gold fillings … and, of course, Cadillacs. One time his foreman saw him driving his Fleetwood Eldorado, which was as long as the Titanic, and shouted: “Nigger, how can you afford that car?” Nigger said: “Yo’ mama bought it for me… or was that your wife?” and drove on.

Such insubordination was one of Nigger’s many flaws. To be honest, Nigger often lived down to Jefferson’s definition. Jefferson said, despite “hard labour through the day”, Nigger would “be induced by the slightest amusements to sit up till midnight, or later”. Everybody knows Nigger was no early-to-bed. Nigger did drink, dip, gamble – and smoke the first thing smoking. Nigger did cuss prodigiously in routine conversation, using both Anglo-Saxon monosyllables and Latinate polysyllables, often employing “mother” as a prefix. Nigger did frequent juke joints and dance with women of any age or girth, moving his hips more than his feet. Nigger was indeed ardent after his female … and yours. Nigger did sometimes carry a razor. Nigger did do a little county time, from time to time.

Back in the day, those flaws alienated other black Americans, who had been equally obstructed by the irrational prejudices rationalised by Jefferson’s Notes. They’d broken their health and hearts striving to disprove what Jefferson had written, or at least to prove it did not apply to them – one poor fool actually sent Jefferson a sheaf of calculations to demonstrate that he could too comprehend Euclid. They’d straightened their hair, bleached their skin, invented Mum™ deodorant, forethought to a fare-thee-well then joined the army anyway, to prove they too were brave. They’d studied diligently at Colored colleges, hoping to do graduate work at the University. They’d founded religious denominations indistinguishable in doctrine from their un-Colored counterparts. They conducted all their meetings in strict accordance with Robert’s Rules of Order. They’d organised a Movement to press for manhood suffrage. They called themselves “Negro Americans”.

But for all their striving, all they’d gained was a cotton-picking compromise and a separate finger – guess which one. They couldn’t get a hotel room in Buffalo, so their Movement had to meet on the Canadian side of the Falls. The next time they met at Harper’s Ferry and sang hymns to John Brown. After that, rich white Americans started an integrated Association dedicated to the proposition that Negro Americans still needed advancement and they went back to being Colored People.

For all this, the Colored People blamed Nigger who, with bad hair, bad odour and bad attitude, insisted on behaving like … himself. One college-educated Negro American said it was the responsibility of the “Talented Tenth” – which, of course, included him – to “guide the Mass away from the contamination … of the Worst”, which, of course, meant Nigger. Nigger said the Talented Tenth were “clichty” [bourgeois] and jealous because they lacked the luck to be black on Saturday night. Whereupon the Colored People threw Nigger under the back wheels of the bus. Jefferson, they conceded, had been right about him. But now, they said, there was a “New Negro” who, unlike Nigger, was “culturally articulate”, capable of “artistic self-expression” and able to document “the recent transformations of the inner and outer life of the Negro”.

Only … there was Nigger, sitting in front of The Founder’s Library, documenting what the monkey did to the lion way down in the jungle and cutting up a watermelon. The New Negroes said, “Nigger, please! You’re dragging us all down. We’re trying to get The New York Times to capitalise ‘negro’.” Nigger just reminded them that only half of that watermelon was his.

In Detroit, the Colored People were content to bury Nigger, but back in the day they wanted to lynch him.

I admit, I was not always a Nigger-lover. When I was six and very small, on the first day of first grade, a boy called me “nigger” and punched me in the nose. All I could actually remember was the pain and blood, but for years I had a Pavlovian reaction, cringing at the sound of Nigger’s name. But when I grew tired of cringing, Nigger helped me to see words as weapons that I too could wield. My mother taught me language; Nigger taught me to curse.

When I found myself in the Ivory League, it was Nigger who helped me navigate the strait between “negro” and “black”, who pointed out the implications of the euphemisms – “underclass”, “overachiever”, “tangle of pathology”. It was Nigger who wondered – aloud, for my benefit – what they called a black American gentleman with a doctorate just after he’d left the room.

By the time I’d completed my coursework, I’d realised Nigger was ineradicable. Take Nigger out of American history; all that’s left is indentured servitude. Change “Nigger Hollow” to “Freedom Road” and the Underground Railroad might as well be Amtrak. Take Nigger out of American literature; Huckleberry Finn is “What I Did on My Summer Vacation” and Native Son is a bad crime novel: Bigger not only does not rhyme, he does not get born. Take Nigger out of music; you’ve got no rags, no blues, no spirituals, probably no From the New World symphony and definitely no American String Quartet. Take Nigger out of social policy; all that’s left is progressive jazz.

The Colored People implied Nigger was never a leader of his people. True, that. Nigger was too busy being of, by and for his people. Nigger knew the trouble we’d seen better than Jesus. Nigger was no drum-major for justice because he knew American justice could beat you like a drum. Nigger knew the sore throat you get from swallowing pride and choking back profanity just to preserve a paycheque. He knew the headache you get from having to see yourself for yourself while at the same time being aware of how you were being seen; he knew that double vision could make your damned eyes cross. He knew how years of heartache, soulache, sheer frustration, could get you to the point where you just had to do something. Anything. Who do you think taught Jesse Jackson to spit in the white folks’ soup?

Put it this way: Nigger knew the price black Americans paid to keep on being Americans, to keep on loving that great white witch … That’s why I loved Nigger. And while I do not insist you love him too, I do insist you recognise my right to speak his name.

And if Nigger’s death has given this nation under God a new birth of freedom, then he should not have been buried like a sharecropper. Nigger should have lain in state in the rotunda of the Capitol, to be viewed by all the honourable men and women in government – if there are any.

Nor should the Colored People now rejoice. For if Nigger was evil, as they claim, and if, as it is written, “the evil that men do lives after them; the good is oft interred with their bones”, then evil still walks among us, only now it’s disembodied and difficult, if not impossible, to identify. And some unfine day our children, whatever they then call themselves, will find themselves on their knees in that Jim Crow cemetery, digging for Nigger’s marrow like a pack of starving hounds.

Comedy and tragedy: Richard Pryor

So went my Eulogy for Nigger. One newspaper ran it as an obituary … but would not put Nigger’s name in the headline. I sent a copy to the Colored People, with a suggestion that, for their next publicity stunt/fundraiser, they build a plaster-of-Paris model of the Jefferson Memorial and blow it up with firecrackers on the Fourth of July. They sent me an invitation to purchase a ticket to their centennial celebration. I was not tempted; with no Nigger involved, it would be less a wingding than a cotillion. But when I read the title they were giving the occasion – “A Century of Advancement: Are We There Yet?” – I thought about touching up that eulogy.

I thought about touching it up again on election night, 2008. Although a registered Republican, I did hope for change, and I believed the “believe” election’s outcome did signify … something. Although I was watching on ABC-TV, I still felt a thrill during the victory speech, as Barack Obama spoke of the dream of our founders, the current challenges – “two wars, a planet in peril, the worst financial crisis in a century” – the steep climb and long road ahead. When he said, “We are, and always will be, the United States of America”, I even thought: maybe it is time to let Nigger rest in peace.

Meanwhile the camera panned the rapturous crowd and I saw Jesse Jackson, crying like a baby. At first I thought his tears were tears of joy. But then I recalled: Jesse Jackson ran for president in ’84 and ’88. But he was black back then, the African-American thing came later. And now he was standing in the cold, as an actual ethnic African-American declared victory. I wondered if Jesse Jackson’s tears weren’t a trifle bittersweet.

Obama was talking about an old black lady from Georgia – when I say old, I mean 106 – born “just a generation past slavery” and how, despite “all that she’s seen throughout her century in America”, she voted for the first time, this time, but I also heard another voice, saying, “He stole the old black lady shit from Martin Luther King – Mother Pollard, ‘My feets is tired, but my soul is rested’ – and Martin stole from me.”

It was Nigger’s voice, of course, talking out loud while I was trying to listen. And he said, “‘Two wars, and the worst financial crisis in a century,’ and by the time you give that State of the Union Speech, they’ll be blamin’ that shit on you.” And he said, “He stole that Yes We Can Thing from Sammy Davis Jnr”. And he said, “You best be hopin’ that Secret Service is on the ball”.

Of course it was just my imagination, running ’way with me. But I did pause to wonder how Nigger would have felt this night – Nigger, who knew the caveats of the founder’s dreams, who could have been that old black lady’s granddaddy. Maybe he’d be rapturous too. Or maybe he’d feel … left behind. One thing was sure: he’d celebrate. Nigger would party at the End of Days.

I thought about touching up his eulogy yet again when I heard the state of Michigan was investigating Mayor Kwame Kilpatrick for corruption, and he was protesting he’d “been called a nigger more than any time in my entire life”. The ex-Canadian Scandihoovian Governor’s response was that “the N-word … has no place in public or private discourse”. I wondered why that woman was so down on Nigger, without even trying to get to know him. Nigger would have hung with her; Nigger socialised without regard for race, creed, colour, or previous condition of nationality … although he might have drawn the line at a politician.

Or maybe not. Nigger wasn’t big on lines. He swore he wouldn’t want his sister to marry a white American. But when she did, there was Nigger at the wedding – pocket watch, gold toothpick, white spats and cane. And he showed up at the reception with two jugs of dandelion wine so strong that, after a single glass, Nigger’s new brother-in-law could actually dance…

Obviously, I could not get Nigger off my mind. I invented arguments to prove he might still be alive. There had been no viewing. The coffin had been closed. There was no death certificate, no autopsy report. The Colored People buried Jim Crow in 1944, and he did not die for 20 years. I imagined Nigger living in some Southern college town under the name “Historically Black”; Nigger knew how to maintain a low profile. Nigger was keeping his head down while Medgar, Malcolm and Martin were getting theirs blown off.

Obviously, I was in denial. My heart was in the coffin there with Nigger; I had to pause till it came back to me.

Meanwhile white Americans were having a get-off-the-field day with the “N- word”. Conservative white Americans loved that locution because it allowed them to voice all their “personal observations” while taking credit for not saying Nigger’s name – like nobody knew they were signifying. Liberal white Americans loved it because, when they were eight and very small, Mummy said never say it, because it would hurt somebody’s feelings and good Help was hard to find. Now they could say “N-word” to their Inner Child’s content.

Both conservative and liberal white Americans agreed black Americans (including The Help) should not speak Nigger’s name, even at a party with just us chickens, even if no chicken gave a squawk. Which reminded me of something Nigger said back in ’66: “Now we are engaged in a psychological struggle … whether or not black people will have the right to use the words they want to use without white people giving their sanction to it.” Now the issue was not Black Power but White Privilege. White Americans no longer felt safe saying Nigger’s name, even in Historically White venues – corporate boardrooms, country-club locker rooms, their mistresses’ boudoir … even country music concerts – and they just couldn’t stand the thought of black Americans freely saying any word they couldn’t say … Obviously, I had moved from denial into anger.

A civil rights march on Washington in 1963

I thought of touching up the eulogy once more when I read a report from the Annie E Casey Foundation, assessing American children’s chances for success in school and life. On a scale of 1 to 1,000, Asian children scored 776, white children 704, and African-American children 345. I wondered why, until I read another report, from the US Department of Education, which revealed that in public schools, including kindergarten, African-American students, especially boys, were disciplined more frequently and harshly than non-African American students, and were three-and-a-half times more likely to be suspended or expelled – which is to say “removed beyond the reach of mixture”.

Then I read that the African-American Attorney General, while speaking at a Historically Black university in Baltimore on the 60th anniversary of Brown vs Board of Education, admitted that “significant divisions persist and segregation has re-occurred”, and that subtle, institutionalised racism might be more “pernicious” than bigoted outbursts. So apparently, despite the shift from racial description to cultural and ethnic identity, the definition hadn’t changed. And despite the burial of Nigger in Detroit, somebody was still calling somebody … something.

Eventually, I moved into acceptance. Nigger was one of the many thousand gone. I would keep him in my heart and mind, as I do all those I’ve loved and lost – some Colored, some Negro, some black, some Nigger.

And now, if there were a memorial service for Nigger, and if I were asked to speak, I would not eulogise. I’d talk about how Nigger schooled me, and how his teachings kept me safe. I’d illustrate it with a story Nigger once told me, about how he once went downtown to see a movie he’d heard was all the patriotic and artistic rage.

This was back in the day, so the film was silent, but the piano was playing “The Battle Hymn of the Republic” and “The Star- Spangled Banner” and “America the Beautiful”, and Nigger was enjoying the music and the innovative images until he saw a certain caption and realised that movie was blaming him for the Civil War. It took no forethought to fear lynching, so Nigger jumped right out of the balcony. He landed on an immigrant, and so escaped unscathed.

Out on the street, he found the Colored People picketing the film. A sign was thrust into his hand, so he joined the protest. Then a counter-protester handed him a broadsheet, which quoted the President saying the film was “all so terribly true” and the Chief Justice saying it reminded him of his days in the Ku Klux Klan.

I was young then; old news was still news to me. “The President?” I said. “The Chief Justice? Nigger, what did you do?”

“Why, I dropped that sign and made a bee-line uptown; clearly it was no time to be downtown walking in circles.”

I said: “But, Nigger, didn’t all this like to drive you crazy?”

He said: “Oh, Nigger, I was already crazy. I’m tellin’ you why I got into comedy.”

This is reprinted from ‘A Eulogy for Nigger and Other Essays’, an anthology of the six winning entries of the Notting Hill Editions Essay Prize (Notting Hill Editions, £14.99), available from www.nottinghilleditions.com and all good bookstores

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