Exile Blues

By (author): Gary Freeman

When Preston Downs, Jr., alias Prez, slides down the emergency chute onto the frozen tarmac at the Montreal airport, little does he know that returning home to Washington D.C. or to his adopted city, Chicago, would now be impossible. Events had sped by after a dust-up with the Chicago police. With a new name and papers, he finds himself in a foreign city where people speak French and life is douce compared to the one he fled.

Son of a World War II vet, Prez grows up in the 50s in D.C., a segregated Southern city, and learns early that black lives don?t much matter. As a leader in the streets, his journey from boyhood to manhood means acquiring fighting skills to lead and unify long before losing his virginity. Smart and skeptical, but with a code of ethics, he, like every black kid, wants to be Malcolm, Martin or at least a ?soul brother,? which inspires fear among the powers that be.

Spotted while an A student at Howard University in 1964, Prez is invited to do an interdisciplinary course with field work on Civil Rights in Chicago, a city as divided as Gettysburg was a hundred years earlier. Faced with police-state conditions, dubious armed gangs, spies and provocateurs, Prez and the young women and men he works with are propelled into a head-on fight with police.

James Baldwin wrote that the blues began “on the auction block,” others say it started with their kidnapping from Africa. Prez was born in exile, with the blues.

Only someone who has lived through that period can write an enthralling and passionate story like Exile Blues. Gary Freeman has done so with insight and sensitivity.


Gary Freeman

Douglas Gary Joseph Freeman is an African American now living in Canada. First-born child of Joseph Pannell Sr., a WWII Naval veteran, and Pauline Adams whose grandmother was born into slavery, he grew up in Washington, D.C., a segregated city know for police brutality. As a high school student he became involved in the Civil Rights movement and then at Howard University turned to Revolutionary Black Nationalism. Frederick Douglass was his first hero, but Malcolm X and Martin Luther King forged his ideological development and political activism, which led him to Chicago where he worked with a local South Side African American organization. Targeted by Chicago?s Red Squad for elimination, he had to fight for his life on a South Side street. The gun-battle that ensued left an officer wounded and the author wounded and in prison. The author began a long quest for justice which weathered repeated and renewed threats to his life. He fled to Canada ?illegally? and became Douglas Gary Joseph Freeman. Married with four children, he worked chiefly as a library professional He was arrested on July 27, 2004 on an extradition warrant. After an 11-year successful struggle for justice, he was returned home to Canada in January 2015.


“To read Exile Blues is to step into the US of the 50s and 60s, to engage with African-American youth at the frontlines of fighting and protesting for freedom and equal rights… an engaging and multi-faceted narrative of survival and strength.” Quill & Quire


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9.00in * 6.00in * .75in


November 01, 2019


Baraka Books



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