The Nickel Boys
Written by Colson Whitehead
Published July 16, 2019

First off this is a 10 out of 5 read, highly recommend, and I don’t say that lightly. It’s been nearly a month and, The Nickel Boys, still haunts me. Elwood Curtis, Jack Turner, and the rest of the boys locked away at The Nickel Academy a supposed “reformatory school” in Eleanor, Florida. Read over a two day span, I couldn’t put it down, staying up till 2am just to finish it as I ugly cried about all the events that transpired. It was an emotional rollercoaster with a nice twist and drop but I won’t give that away.

When sharing the books I read my goal is to take photos of them in locations that relate back to the story. This one was tricky. Since reading the novel I’ve contemplated on what would be the most appropriate and perfect backdrop for this photo. Yes there are several places where terrible things happened that could be used as a substitute; however, those locations felt so wrong. I also thought about using the backdrop of the mountains with the purpose of releasing these characters into a peaceful beautiful place. But that too felt wrong. Then today it occurred to me, why not use Penn School as the backdrop? Specifically the cabin that Martin Luther King Jr. retreated too while he escaped from the world. That location would also tie into the book as young Elwood had a great admiration for Martin Luther King Jr. and several of MLK’s speeches are referenced throughout the book. This is also the location where MLK wrote his “I Have a Dream” speech that was delivered during the March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom on August 28, 1963.

Historical Notes

While this book is fictitious The Nickel Academy is based on the Arther G. Dozier School for Boys that had a notorious reputation for abuse, beatings, rapes, torture, and even murder of students by staff operating for 111 years.

Penn School the location backdrop for this photo was founded in 1862 by Laura Towne and Ellen Murray, which was established as one of the first schools for freed African-American slaves living on St. Helena Island and the surrounding Sea Islands.

If you haven’t read this novel by Colson Whitehead, I encourage you all to add it to your list. You will NOT be disappointed.