BLACK AND WHITE SAT DOWN TOGETHER by Mary White Ovington

BLACK AND WHITE SAT DOWN TOGETHER

The Reminiscences of an NAACP Founder
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KIRKUS REVIEW

 An historic but often tedious collection of short writings by Ovington (18651951), a white settlement worker who was a founder and longtime officer of the NAACP. These pieces (originally published in the Baltimore Afro- American newspaper in 193233) consist mostly of personal reminiscences that depict race relations and the status of African- Americans in the early part of the century. In 1908, Ovington, then in her mid-30s, moved into the Tuskegee Apartments in San Juan Hill, a poor Manhattan neighborhood where, as the only white person in the area, she observed the everyday lives of working-class blacks. While the black family was basically intact, black women, who often worked as domestics, were frequently away from home. ``The absence of the mother from the home led to juvenile delinquency,'' wrote Ovington. ``More than white children, colored boys and girls came before the juvenile courts for improper guardianship.'' As for the men, too many of them could not get jobs or secure employment that was not ``hateful.'' They often depended on the women to support them while they lounged on the street or frequented pool halls. Ovington worked to mobilize northerners to improve the lot of blacks in a time when most white northerners ``easily excused'' lynchings as a legitimate response to charges of rape. Nor did northerners see harm in racist films like Birth of a Nation, a dramatization of educated black men lusting after southern white girls, who are rescued by the Ku Klux Klan. Nobody rescues a black rape victim in ``The White Brute,'' a short story that adds some much-needed life to this plodding collection. (Editor Luker is coeditor of volumes I and II of The Papers of Martin Luther King, Jr.) This book loses more than it gains by its historicity, and it lacks insight into both the general topic of American race relations and the dynamics of Ovington's own life.

Pub Date: April 1st, 1995
ISBN: 1-55861-099-5
Page count: 184pp
Publisher: Feminist Press
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15th, 1995




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