Carson’s book documents the ascent of four young African-American brothers during the early 20th century.
The four sons of Roberta “Sis” Pitts—Willis, Robert, Raymond, and Nathan—all became accomplished professionals when such a thing was rare for even one member of a black family in the Jim Crow South. Pitts’ sons credited their mother with instilling in them the determination and will to succeed no matter the obstacle. The book traces the lives of each of these men and shows how three earned Ph.D.s as educators and one became a federal government employee. Written in a straightforward, chronological style, Carson portrays each son’s life by what he did year to year from childhood to death. The author provides extensive quotes from all; here Raymond discusses moving into a soon-to-be racially mixed neighborhood: “I think we ought to get to know and love our neighbors.” The book is at its best when it details the racist incidents that show the endemic bigotry of the time, such as when Willis was forced out of the carpentry business because he accepted clients from white carpenters or the way the Pitts family became “blockbusters” (blacks who became the first African-Americans to live on a whites-only block) in Pasadena, California. There is one egregious historical error: “In 1917, just weeks after he became the first Southerner elected President since the Civil War, Woodrow Wilson….” (Wilson was first elected president in 1912). The book provides thorough, frank details about one black family’s experiences during the beginning of the 20th century; however, unless someone is keenly interested in the story of the Pitts brothers, there is little here for the casual reader.
An account of the achievements of four African-American brothers; of interest primarily to Pitts family members.