Having Our Say: The Delany Sisters First 100 Years

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9781568360102: Having Our Say: The Delany Sisters First 100 Years
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"When you get real old, honey," says Bessie Delany, "you lay it all on the table. There's an old saying: Only little children and old folks tell the truth." In Having Our Say Bessie, age 101, and her sister Sadie, age 103, do just that-and then some. Filled with humorous and poignant anecdotes, this inspiring dual memoir offers a rare glimpse of the birth of black freedom- and the rise of the black middle class-in America. It is a chronicle of remarkable achievement.

Sadie and Bessie Delany recall growing up with eight other siblings in turn-of-the-century North Carolina: their father was born in slavery, yet became the nation's first elected black Episcopal bishop; their mother could have "passed" for white but chose not to.

With irrepressible pluck, the sisters confronted the first days of Jim Crow and legal segregation, and took part in the World War I-era migration North, rising to professional prominence during the heyday of Harlem. Along the way they met such legendary figures as black leaders Booker T. Washington and W. E. B. Du Bois and entertainers Cab Calloway and Lena Home. Both sisters favored careers over marriage, despite many opportunities. Later, they settled in the still partly-rural Bronx, then integrated a suburban neighborhood in the '50s.

Each has triumphed in her own way:
"Queen Bess" with feistiness; "Sweet Sadie" with quiet determination. Though warmly skeptical of each other's style, they remain devoted. "She may be one- hundred-and-one years old, comments Sadie, "but she's still my little sister."

Today they are fragile, yet fiercely independent. They still live alone in their own house. They make their own peach preserves and their own soap, and don't own a telephone ("it's the biggest nuisance invented by mankind"). Radio keeps them informed-and their opinions on current events are to be reckoned with.

Sadie and Bessie Delany's lifelong insights provide us with a priceless oral history of our nation's past century. And what they "have to say" shows us, as no one else can, where we've been, how far we've come...and how far we have to go.

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Review:

"I never thought I'd see the day that the world would want to hear what two old Negro women have to say," says Bessie Delany. But Bessie and her sister, Sadie, born in 1893 and 1891, saw plenty, by eating a low-fat, high-vegetable diet and outliving the "old Rebby [rebel] boys" who once almost lynched Sadie. This remarkable memoir was a long-running bestseller, spawning a Broadway play and adding to their list of seasoned acquaintances (Marian Anderson, Langston Hughes, Paul Robeson, Cab Calloway) such spring chickens as Hillary Clinton. Born to a former slave whose owners broke the law by teaching him to read, the sisters got a solid education. North Carolina was paradise--despite the Rebbies--until Jim Crow reared its hideous head. The girls had loved to ride in the front of the trolley because the wind in their hair made them feel free, but one day the conductor sadly ordered them to the back. The family moved to New York, where Bessie became the town's second black woman dentist and Sadie the first black woman home-ec teacher. They befriended everyone who was anyone in the Harlem Renaissance (their brother won the 1925 Congressional primary there), pursued careers instead of husbands, and lived peacefully together, despite their differences. Sadie was more peaceable, like Booker T. Washington, while Bessie was a W.E.B. Du Bois-style militant.

They're funny: Bessie notes that blacks must be sharp to get ahead, "But if you're average and white, honey, you can go far. Just look at Dan Quayle. If that boy was colored he'd be washing dishes somewhere." And they are wise: Sadie says, "Life is short, and it's up to you to make it sweet."

From the Publisher:

In their 200+ combined years, Sadie and Bessie Delany have seen it all. They saw their father, who was born into slavery, become America's first black Episcopal bishop. They saw their mother--a woman of mixed racial parentage who was born free--give birth to ten children, all of whom would become college-educated, successful professionals in a time when blacks could scarcely expect to receive a high school diploma. They saw the post-Reconstruction South, the Jim Crow laws, Harlem's Golden Age, and the Civil Rights movement--and, in their own feisty, wise, inimitable way, they've got a lot to say about it.

More than a firsthand account of black American history, Having Our Say teaches us about surviving, thriving, and embracing life, no matter what obstacles are in our way.

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Other Popular Editions of the Same Title

9780440220428: Having Our Say: The Delany Sisters' First 100 Years

Featured Edition

ISBN 10:  0440220424 ISBN 13:  9780440220428
Publisher: Dell, 1994
Softcover

9780385312523: Having Our Say: The Delany Sisters' First 100 Years

Delta, 1997
Softcover

9780816158317: Having Our Say: The Delany Sisters' First 100 Years (G.K. Hall Large Print Book)

G K Ha..., 1994
Softcover

9780816158300: Having Our Say: The Delany Sisters' First 100 Years (G K Hall Large Print Book Series)

G K Ha..., 1993
Hardcover

9780606071512: Having Our Say: The Delany Sisters' First 100 Years

Demco ..., 1994
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