Slave Narratives

Who was the first known black writer to depict a black detective in a novel?

Between 1907 and 1909, John Edward (Bruce Grit) Bruce (1856–1924) serialized “The Black Sleuth” in McGirt’s Magazine and became the first known writer to depict a black detective in a novel. His work was a forerunner of detective novels by such authors as Rudolph Fisher and Chester Himes. Born a slave in Piscataway, Maryland, he studied at Howard University for a while and then became a journalist, editor, historian, and a popular public speaker. A militant writer for the black press, during his career he wrote for over twenty newspapers, some of which appeared in the white press. His famous column that appeared in the Cleveland Gazette and the New York Age was called “Bruce Grit,” the name by which he was also known. In 1911 he was a cofounder, with Arthur A. Schomburg and others, of the Negro Society for Historical Research. John Cullen Gruesser of Kean University edited Bruce’s work and published it in book form in June 2002.


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