The Enemy a short story by Adam S. Toporek about race in Mississippi during World War II. Book cover.

The Enemy

Story Type: Short Story
Publication Date: November 8, 2022
Available Format(s): Ebook

Clinton, Mississippi. 1943. World War II.

Jesse, a young black boy, just received his first shoe shine box. Excited to grow up and become a “working man,” he begins shining shoes in front of Mr. Carl’s restaurant.

However, Jesse soon learns that working in the Jim Crow South is more complicated than he thought. When he is asked to give a free shine to one of the prisoners from Camp Clinton, Jesse discovers that the enemy is not necessarily who he thinks it is.


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  • The Slave Dwelling Project. When slavery ended, many things stayed the same for the formerly enslaved. Generations later, many still worked the same land and lived in the same spot. Sharecropper dwellings, like the one Jesse and his family lived in, are a part of the difficult legacy of slavery and later sharecropping. Check out this wonderful initiative to preserve this history. (external)


  • Sharecropping. In The Enemy, Jesse’s father says, ““Look here, Jesse. We the only colored folk around here that ain’t sharecroppin’. We got our own property. It ain’t much, but we own it…” This article provides a solid, short history of sharecropping, a system that has been called “slavery by another name.” (external)
  • German POWs in Mississippi. As the Allies began to defeat the Axis powers, first in North Africa, then Italy, then Western Europe, they had a problem: what to do with so many prisoners? This page provides a good overview of the context of the four POW camps in Mississippi, though my research did discover that some small details might be inaccurate (General Von Armin did not have a car and driver, for example). (external)


  • Camp Clinton. Of the many POW camps in the United States during World War II, Camp Clinton was special because it housed the highest ranking German officers. This article provides some more insight into Camp Clinton, though take small details with a grain of salt (it repeats the Von Armin car and driver idea). (external)