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(Incognegro Graphic Novels #1)

3.94  ·  Rating details ·  2,191 ratings  ·  364 reviews
In the early 20th century, when lynchings were commonplace in the American South, a few brave reporters - light-skinned African-Americans - risked their lives to expose the truth. This undercover work was known as 'going incognegro'. Zane Pinchback's latest case hits close to home: his brother has been arrested for murder.
Hardcover, 136 pages
Published February 6th 2008 by Vertigo
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3.94  · 
Rating details
 ·  2,191 ratings  ·  364 reviews

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Strange Fruit
Southern Trees bear a strange fruit.
Blood on the leaves and blood at the root.
Black body swinging in the southern breeze.
Strange fruit hanging from the Poplar trees.
Pastoral scene of the gallant South.
The bulging eyes and the twisted mouth.
Scent of Magnolia sweet and fresh.
And the sudden smell of burning flesh!
Here is a fruit for the crows to pluck
For the rain to gather for the wind to suck,
For the sun to rot, for the tree to drop.
Here is a strange and bitter crop.
Abel Meeropol wri
Jan Rice
Oct 27, 2016 rated it it was amazing
A panel from the graphic novel Incognegro, written by Mat Johnson and illustrated by Warren Pleece

Not long ago I happened to turn on NPR, and I caught an interview with the author Mat Johnson, talking about his novel Loving Day and...other stuff. I still haven't been able to read all of it straight through because it's so intense, so rich. With truth. Try it; you'll see what I mean.

On the basis of hearing the part of it that I heard, I thought I'd like to read his graphic novel first. How cou
Aug 03, 2018 rated it really liked it
Shelves: 2018
The story of a light-skinned black reporter who'd head South, going undercover to gather names and pictures of those that engaged in lynchings. He's ready to hang it up before his luck runs out when he gets news that his brother is in jail for killing a white woman. So he heads South one last time.

Not only does the book deal with the awfulness that mankind can inflict on one another for something as dumb as the color of one's skin, but the book is actually a pretty solid noir. Just one set in th
Mar 16, 2017 rated it it was amazing
“..normal people, they need somethin’ to hate, something to blame for why things ain’t perfect. Something to explain their fear.” Birth of a Nation flavored crap, i’m sorry, I meant shit.

One hundred years ago it looked a little different, sure, now it attempts a modicum of effort, a whisper of equity, but everyone knows the truth. Institutional racism is alive and well in the USA, thriving as loudly, up on their cracker boxes bleating their insipid theories, as ever.

But this book, this amazing b
Sep 22, 2014 rated it really liked it
Despite its unsettling subject matter, Incognegro is an entertaining murder mystery graphic novel. It’s fitting that Walter Mosley is quoted on the cover, since Mosley’s influence is evident, from its fast-paced grittiness to its racial subject matter. In author Mat Johnson’s introductory autobiographical note, he explains how he based this story on a former head of the NAACP who “passed” (blacks who were seen and accepted as whites) to investigate the lynchings in the early 20th century.

The op
Jun 19, 2015 rated it it was amazing
Wow, this was so good.
It's a mystery, period piece, about race relations, about passing, about gender, about friendship, about family, about journalism, about career, about making a difference, about regionalism, about doing what's right.
It's about both implicit and explicit racism, and is a damn good comic book to boot.
I might need to own this one.
Lashaan Balasingam (Bookidote)
You can find my review on my blog by clicking here.

The deep-rooted presence of racism within American soil is a tough-to-eradicate plague that has yet to leave the people in peace today. While white supremacists have greatly lowered in numbers over the past centuries, the role that racism plays in segregation continues to strive, even if it isn’t always explicit and tangible. In the early 20th century, lynching was a common practice throughout the American South. The act of hanging African-Ameri
Aug 12, 2012 rated it it was amazing
I'm not usually terribly interested in the author's personally story, but in this case the letter he included about his inspiration for this graphic novel really lit up the story for me.

Mat Johnson was an African American kid growing up in a black neighborhood. Only thing was that he looks white. Apparently his mother tried everything to make him seem blacker, even making him wear traditional African clothes at times, but that only made things worse. He hated feeling different, but he had a cous
Tiffany Tucker
Jan 24, 2014 rated it really liked it
This book is kind of, sort of based on a true story. There was a ahead of the NAACP that was a white passing African American man that would go undercover at lynchings to report on them in newspapers. The main character of Incognegro is a white passing African American living in harlem during the Harlem Renaissance that also goes under cover at lynchings in the south and reports on them at his newspaper in New York. I won't tell you much more because I don't want to spoil it, but this story func ...more
Jun 10, 2010 rated it did not like it
This has to be one of the most disappointing approaches to a painful subject in African-American history (the lynchings in the deep South) since Rosewood. Anyone who knows me will know that thoughts of that movie fill me with a potent rage.
"Incognegro" is about a light-skinned black reporter who "passes" for white to infiltrate lynch mobs. Apparently, it's based on an actual reporter from the 1920s who wrote for the Harlem papers. After dancing around this book and its execrable title, I caved i
Skye Kilaen
Incognegro drew me back to comics after several years when nothing interested me. The story is intense beyond words. It's a mystery, a crime and detective story, and a reminder of the deep horror of how African-Americans have been treated throughout U.S. history. It's set in the 1930s. Zane Pinchback is an African-American reporter who has skin light enough to "pass" for white, working in New York. He travels to Mississippi when his brother is accused of murdering a white woman. Johnson was insp ...more
Nov 16, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: graphic-novels
The lynchings that occurred in the southern United States during the heyday of the Ku Klux Klan do not receive enough attention in American history books, and as an unfortunate result of that there are many Americans that don't know about the horrors of hate and racism in our history.

This graphic novel reveals these horrors through the eyes of a light-skinned African-American reporter that investigates lynchings by passing as white. The story reveals how artificial distinctions of race are by s
Daniel Sevitt
Jun 24, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: graphic-comic
Terrific storytelling of a terrific story. This book addresses the complex notion of "passing" as a subplot in a tale of murder and lynchings in the South. It's certainly not perfect, but there is plenty to enjoy here and it rattles along with a sense of righteousness and maybe even optimism.
David Stephens
Mat Johnson's Incognegro makes a valiant effort to link comic books, detective fiction, and stories of southern racism in the early twentieth century. It deserves loads of credit merely because its central premise is so inventive and thought provoking: a light-skinned black man (light skinned enough to pass as being white in most circles) travels south to report on lynchings that are otherwise going unnoticed by the country at large. This is a dangerous job as the protagonist's first assignment ...more
Jul 04, 2008 rated it liked it
Shelves: graphic-novel
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Hannah Garden
Nov 12, 2015 rated it really liked it
Shelves: november-2015
Well me like the rest of you I've been getting more and more addicted to my idiot phone and it's just grinding the livelihood right out of me and I can't fuxking take it. Been wanting to read this for ages now but it's out of print and a little pricier than I who will spend a nickel gladly but a quarter only under great consternation would prefer. Anyway on a lunchtime library browse I found a copy and read it last night and this morning, putting my phone on a timer in really embarrassingly tiny ...more
Jun 10, 2018 rated it really liked it
Shelves: graphic-novels
A light-skinned black reporter poses as a white man in the Jim Crow South in order to solve a murder and prevent the gleeful mob lynching of an innocent black man.

I had steeled myself for something ponderous and gut-wrenching, but Incognegro turned out to be more of a page-turner. Except for the intermittent stomach-turning racial abuse and violence, this reads like a simple noir crime novel: outmatched but determined investigator goes into criminal underworld to solve a murder while an innocent
Mar 14, 2009 rated it it was ok
I thought this was a great idea, but the execution left a lot to be desired.

The art was fine, but the plot relied on predictable storytelling, forced noir dialog, and superficial stock characters - the chivalrous protagonist, the tough-as-nails newspaper editor, the lovable scoundrel, the wily hill-woman with her dopey fall-guy lover, and the irredeemably evil villain with one dead eye.

I really wanted this to be good, but it seemed too preoccupied with fitting in to the noir genre to really expl
( Video review here: )

“Since when have white people ever cared about a black man’s truth?”

The premise of Incognegro is a fascinating one. Born out of Johnson's own experience as a white-passing biracial man, Johnson envisioned a time when white passing would be a key to survival. And thus, this graphic novel was born.

I love love loved the story. It was serious, gritty, and also hilarious. It had the thrill of a Western - there was some serious d r a m a
Matthew Simms
Sep 03, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Incognegro is a fictional story of an African-American working as a reporter in the 20th century American South. Using his pale skin complexion to go unnoticed, he infiltrates white racists to uncover identities of people responsible for lynchings. In the story, the main protagonist is about to stop going undercover, but something comes up that causes him to go back undercover one last time.

The mystery in this book is interesting, with murders, twists, and false motivations. It's not a very lon
Feb 28, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Really enjoyed this graphic novel.
Feb 17, 2019 rated it really liked it
This is the very first graphic novel that I have completed. I enjoyed the story of a reporter from Harlem who goes south and passes for white to expose racial injustices. The pictures were eye catching and the story was very interesting.
Nov 27, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Zane Pinchback is a black man in the 1930s who can pass for white. He is a reporter for a NY newspaper and, under the pseudonym Incognegro, he uses this ability to go undercover in the south to investigate lynchings. Despite the vast numbers (in the thousands), these are ignored by mainstream newspapers even in the north. However, after he is almost caught at one while collecting names and addresses of the proud perpetrators, he tells his editor he doesn’t want to do this anymore. He would rathe ...more
Laura Roberts
Got this one from the library today, chewed through it over lunch, and really enjoyed it. The subject matter is dark, but it's also based on some real-life events, which gives an interesting gravitas to the graphic novel (or "comic book," as some might have it...).

The title itself is a clever take on the subject of black folks in the U.S. "passing" as white, and that's exactly what the title character does -- though in this case, he passes in order to infiltrate white society as a defender of ju
Sally Sugarman
Jul 03, 2016 rated it it was amazing
Incognegro - Mat Johnson Art by Warren Pleece
This book was inspired by the fact that the author is an African-American who looks white. He has blond-brown hair and fair skin. When he read about Walter White, a fair skinned African American, going into the deep south to investigate lynchings in the early 20th century, he got the idea for this book. It is about a fair skinned black man who investigates lynchings under the title Incognegro and writes them up for a black newspaper. When he hears th
Jan 22, 2017 rated it really liked it
This intriguing graphic novel feels like a really good episode of THE TWILIGHT ZONE or ALFRED HITCHCOCK PRESENTS. Not the ones with the weird space aliens or fantasy elements, but the ones where they examine social issues and make you think about it in ways you'd never thought about it before.

In this case, the issues are race and identity, particularly in the American "Jazz Age." It follows the story of a light-skinned black man -- the titular "Incognegro," a journalist who goes undercover as a
Jun 21, 2017 rated it really liked it
Maybe actually 3.5 stars...

Incognegro takes on the challenging subject - especially for a graphic novel - of lynching. Although the story is really about the Zane's (the main character) use of his ability to pass as white to observe and report on lynchings in the South. And the risks associated with doing that for him and for his friend that travels with him. The action in the story focuses on Zane and his brother, who Zane travels to the South from Harlem to rescue. We're taken through a story
Jul 03, 2008 rated it liked it
Shelves: graphic-novels
Mat Johnson writes a fantastic murder mystery set in a small town, complete with the outsider trying to reach the truth despite the local powers-that-be. But add that our outsider is Zane Pinchback--a Southern Black journalist based in Harlem, light-skinned enough to pass for white, that infiltrates and reports back on lynchings--and the small town is pre-Civil Rights era Mississippi, and you have the makings of a serial that cuts to the heart of White and Black racism.

Warren Pleece's art sharp
Mar 27, 2016 rated it liked it
An okay graphic novel. I think, in all fairness, it probably deserves 3.5 stars, but one of the stars is a Shout-Out to the illustrator. I think this story worked best in the graphic novel format. Author clearly tries to educate readers about the "Old South" in the process. In fact, it was just on the cusp of trying too hard to get certain philosophical points across. It was "graphic" in more ways than just just being illustrated. Infused with humor, despite subject matter, and has a creative tw ...more
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Mat Johnson is an American writer of literary fiction who works in both prose and the comics format. In 2007, he was named the first USA James Baldwin Fellow by United States Artists.

Johnson was born and raised in the Germantown and Mount Airy communities in Philadelphia.

His mother is African American and his father is Irish Catholic. He attended Greene Street Friends School, West Chester Univers

Other books in the series

Incognegro Graphic Novels (5 books)
  • Incognegro: Renaissance
  • Incognegro: Renaissance #1
  • Incognegro: Renaissance #2
  • Incognegro: Renaissance #3
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“Since White America refuses to see its past, they can't really see me either. Add to that a little of Madame C.J.s magic and watch me go invisible. Watch me step outside of history. Assimilation as revolution. That's one thing that most of us know that white folks don't. Race doesn't really exist. Culture? Ethnicity? Sure. Class too. But race is just a bunch of rules meant to keep us on the bottom. Race is a strategy. The rest is just people acting playing roles.” 4 likes
“You've got to admit, slick, you got a skill for avoiding the devil."

"That just means that now the devils out there, looking for me...and that devil is very mad.”
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