Short Story #353: Santa Claus Is A White Man by John Henrik Clarke

Title:  Santa Claus Is A White Man

Author:  John Henrik Clarke


Book cover to The Best Short Stories by Negro Writers - Langston Hughes.
After Randall is given a quarter by his mother, he is instructed to go downtown and buy nice presents for the family for Christmas.  Randall is excited to be able to give to his family and so heads downtown with excitement.  As he gets to the shopping area, he encounters a sad-looking Santa who he knows is not the real Santa but just one of his affiliates.  This part of town is filled with poor white folks and Randall recognizes a group of white kids that are clearly hoodlums.  He tries to avoid them but they hone in on him and begin to bully him.  Santa even joins in on the teasing.  They eventually decide to lynch him and one boy goes to find a rope.  When they realize he has a quarter, they take it from him.  The boy returns with rope for lynching but the Santa figure changes his mind about that.  The boy is disappointed but it is assuaged when Santa gives him the quarter taken from Randall.  The crowd is pleased with this.  Bidding his time, Randall seizes an opportunity to make a run for it and he does, while the boys throw rocks at him.  Randall makes his way home and determines that he will explain what happened to his quarter but no one else.  However, he can't bring himself to discuss Santa Claus as he is so saddened his actions.


This was a very curious story.  Again, in some ways it is the typical tale of innocence lost but the means by which it is lost is what is most fascinating.  I also like how Clarke provides us with a child who may speak like a child but we see a much richer interior world.
Short Story #353 out of 365
Rating: 3 (out of 5 stars)
Date Read:  12/1/2014
Source:  The Best Short Stories by Negro Writers, ed. by Langston Hughes.  Little, Brown, and Company, 1967.  This story can also be found for free at this website.  

For a full listing of all the short stories in this series, check out the category 365 Short Stories a year.

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