Post 55:
“The Wisdom of Solomon”

Post 55:  “The Wisdom of Solomon”

From 13-Year-Old Anne’s Journal —

January 25 – EXCELLENT    


“A black kid named Solomon wants to work in exchange for an education. Pa lets him. But soon his brother comes to find him. On this last day of school, he gives a plaque that says “Bless this school.” I cried on that part.”


From Anne —

On the whole, Little House on the Prairie was about as white as a marshmallow blizzard. Except for Hester Sue. And a handful of earlier shows. Like this one. In which the N-word is used, multiple times.

This episode, penned by a white dude, aired the same year as the miniseries Roots. I don’t know about you, but I remember the cultural force Roots exerted, with all the adults glued to the TV, and 7-year-old me totally freaked out by the whipping scenes.

Todd Bridges, pre-Diff’rent Strokes, had a small role in Roots. And he nails the character of Solomon Henry on LHOP. He gets you right in the gut, asking Pa questions like: “Would you rather be black and live to be 100, or white and live to be 50?” Pa can’t manage an answer.

Solomon is a fatherless boy (“Bein’ a n***er killed my pa,” he reports…accurately, no doubt) who sees his own future behind plow and but is hot to pursue schooling a la Frederick Douglass. Solomon runs away from home across the California desert — er, Minnesota prairie — and, long story short, ends up bunking in the Ingalls’ storage shed and attending class, but not before he’s offered to sell himself to Charles. Name the price, Solomon says.

There is no way in hell this episode would air today. We’re pretty bad at reckoning with our own history, such that a children’s literature award is no longer named for Laura Ingalls Wilder.

Seeing this LHOP episode — with Laura touching Solomon’s face to see if the black comes off, and Solomon saying aloud in class that he dislikes “being a n***er” — you are zapped back to the two eras before political correctness: the actual historical one, and the pre-1990s one.

Seems like 50% of LHOP plots involve an out-of-towner who pops into Walnut Grove and really blow things up. Sometimes it’s just a hunky handyman. A sometimes it’s Solomon, the kid who can be anything he wants to be…just not white, as his brother reminds him. Solomon’s matted ‘fro, patched-up pants, thirst to learn, and laser-like truth-telling never leave my eyes dry, that’s for damn sure.

From Tracy —

Wow. Todd Bridges. Todd Bridges? Todd BRIDGES! What an actor he could have been.

The whole kid cast of Diff’rent Strokes had so many problems, lived short, brutish lives and were tabloid fodder for decades. That, unfortunately, is all I can remember about Todd Bridges who seems to be the last one standing. He’s been in jail, but he also saved a woman in a wheelchair from drowning.

Anne’s right. You cannot get through this episode without welling up. It’s also one of those rare times that Laura isn’t doing any heavy lifting. She just takes a breather and lets Solomon do all the work. And what a great Oscar-winning performance it is.

Also, isn’t this one of the very rare episodes where there isn’t a hard-won victory or happy ending by the time the credits roll? I’m thinking of the rapey clown episode and the burning blind school episode. But I can’t think of any others right now.

Having everyone completely stumped on how to handle this bright little boy is actually welcome. He might as well be Klaatu from “The Day the Earth Stood Still” warning us about how our violent ways will end our world and then leaving the planet in a hurry knowing nothing will change. He’s that much of an alien.

I must disagree with Anne on this one. I think it was brave of Landon to do this episode even though it was long before political correctness. But I also think it would air even today though the n word is the nuclear bomb of speech. This episode just might be airing on a cable channel instead of NBC.

And hey – does anyone else find it completely jarring to go from heavy somber music to the chirpy, bouncy theme song over the credits? It’s like being on a train that has to stop for a cow on the tracks.

 

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