Books by A. Elizabeth Delany

Released: Sept. 19, 1993

In a memoir that's as much a historical record as a testimony to two extraordinary women, the Delany sisters recall their remarkable lives, spanning more than a century of the African- American experience. Daughters of the nation's first black Episcopal bishop, Sadie and Bessie Delany, born in 1889 and 1891 respectively, are a living record of the seismic changes that have affected black America since Emancipation. Their father was born in slavery; their mother was the daughter of an ``issue-free negro'' and a white Virginian farmer who, though prohibited by law from marrying his beloved Martha Logan, treated her and his children as his lawful family. Raised in the sheltered environment of St. Augustine's School near Raleigh, where their father was the principal, the two girls were expected, like their eight other siblings, to excel both academically and morally. An idyllic childhood was followed by the introduction of Jim Crow legislation that soon made life in the South intolerable, prompting the sisters to move to Harlem. In New York, Sadie graduated from Pratt and became a high-school teacher, while Bessie, graduating from Columbia, became a dentist. The two were soon prominent in Harlem, befriending the black elite (Booker T. Washington, Cab Calloway, Adam Clayton Powell) and actively fighting racial discrimination. Today, looking back, they continue to reflect the wisdom, humor, and feistiness that enabled them to triumph over racism and sexism—the latter, in their opinion, not as corrosive as the former. The Delanys aren't optimistic about the future of race relations, believing that the momentum of the civil- rights struggle was taken away by the Vietnam War. An uplifting and delightful introduction to two splendid women of remarkable good sense and grace—and a fascinating chapter of history as well. (Thirty b&w photographs—not seen) (First printing of 35,000; first serial to American Heritage) Read full book review >