Colson Whitehead: ‘We have kids in concentration camps. But I have to be hopeful'

The Underground Railroad made him a household name. Now the author is back with a ‘Trumpian novel’ – inspired by a horrifying but ignored part of US history It is the summer of 2019 and Colson Whitehead is sitting in midtown Manhattan thinking back to the birth of his new novel, The Nickel Boys . “It was 2014,” he recalls, “and it was a rough summer in terms of race and police brutality. Michael Brown was shot by a white cop in Ferguson, Missouri. Eric Garner , who was selling bootleg cigarettes in Staten Island, was choked to death by a cop. And no one was being held accountable. No one was being disciplined or going to jail. And then I came across Dozier School.” The Arthur G Dozier school , more formally known as the Florida School for Boys, existed from 1900 to 2011 as a reform institution for youngsters deemed juvenile delinquents. Locally, and for much of its history, it was notorious for the beatings and torture meted out to students by whip-wielding staff. Many dozens died in mysterious circumstances