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Having Our Say by Sadie and Bessie Delany Essay

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Having Our Say by Sadie and Bessie Delany

The social, cultural and political history of America as it affects the life course of American citizens became very real to us as the Delany sisters, Sadie and Bessie, recounted their life course spanning a century of living in their book "Having Our Say." The Delany sisters’ lives covered the period of their childhood in Raleigh, North Carolina, after the "Surrender" to their adult lives in Harlem, New York City during the roaring twenties, to a quiet retirement in suburban, New York City, as self-styled "maiden ladies." At the ages of 102 and 104, these ladies have lived long enough to look back over a century of their existence and appreciate the value of a good family life and
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Basic habits such as clean bodies, clean thoughts, a love of music and concern for the less fortunate, became a way of life in their family. Therefore, the Delanys, although not wealthy were considered an elite black family due to their high values and standards (p.69).

Why in reviewing their lives they considered themselves very lucky? Because the life of black people outside the doors of their sheltered home and the gates of St. Augustine were vastly different. Sadie and Bessie witnessed and experienced the insults and indignities of being black in the South during the Reconstruction period and the enactment of Jim Crow laws. John Hope Franklin, in his book "From Slavery to Freedom, explained that after the Civil War, the South was "filled with former slaves who were disoriented and ill prepared for freedom, suffering from starvation and disease … homeless and without jobs wandering from place to place, much to the disgust and fear of whites." (Franklin, p. 222). That was the plight of most black people. Sadie and Bessie worked during the Reconstruction era teaching in the rural south to raise money and saw the poverty and felt the insults of Jim Crow Laws with its "Coloreds" and "Whites only" signs. And as Lerone Bennett, Jr. in "A History
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