In their 200-plus combined years of living, centenarians Sadie and Bessie Delany have seen it all. They saw their extraordinary father, who was born into slavery, become America's first elected black Episcopal bishop. They saw their dedicated mother--a woman of mixed racial heritage who was born freework fulltime as a teacher and school administrator while bringing ten children into the world, all of whom would become college-educated, successful professionals. They saw the post-Reconstruction South, the beginning of Jim Crow laws, Harlem's Golden Age, and the mid-twentieth century Civil Rights movement--and, in their own feisty, wise, inimitable way, they've got a lot to say about it.
A firsthand account of American history from a rarely-heard perspective, Having Our Say teaches us about surviving, thriving, and embracing life, no matter what obstacles are in our way. Having Our Say, first published in 1993, is considered a classic of the oral history genre.
Dr. A. Elizabeth (Bessie”) Delany and Sarah L. (Sadie”) Delany were born in Raleigh, North Carolina, on the campus of St. Augustine's School (now College). Their father, born into slavery, was an administrator at the school and America's first elected black Episcopal bishop. Sarah received her bachelor's and master's degrees from Columbia University and was New York City's first appointed black home economics teacher at the high school level. Elizabeth received her degree in dental surgery from Columbia University and was the second black woman licensed to practice dentistry in New York State. The two sisters spurned offers of marriage, choosing instead to pursue their careers. In 1960, they retired and bought a house in Mt. Vernon, New York, where they lived in obscurity until 1991, when a journalist named Amy Hill Hearth tracked them down and interviewed them for a feature story in The New York Times. Ms. Hearth worked closed with the sisters for the next two years to expand her story into book form. The result was Having Our Say, a New York Times bestseller for 113 weeks that was adapted to the Broadway stage and for an award-winning telefilm. Bessie Delany died in 1995; Sadie in 1999. They are buried in Raleigh beside their parents.
AMY HILL HEARTH began her career as a newspaper reporter. HAVING OUR SAY is her first book. She has since written six more nonfiction books and an acclaimed novel, MISS DREAMSVILLE AND THE COLLIER COUNTY WOMEN’S LITERARY SOCIETY.
A proud, vivid oral history.”
"I felt proud to be an American citizen reading Having Our Say...the two voices, beautifully blended...evoke an epic history...often cruel and brutal, but always deeply humane."
-- The New York Times Book Review
"The Lord won't hold it against me that I'm colored because he made me that way! He thinks I am beautiful! And so do I even with all my wrinkles!"
-- Bessie Delany, at age 102
"This Jim Crow mess was pure foolishness. It's not law anymore, but it's still in some people's hearts. I just laugh it off, child. I never let prejudice stop me from what I wanted to do in this life."
-- Sadie Delany, at age 104
"This book is destined to become a classic! The Delany sisters--leave to us the best of legacies-two sets of dancing footprints for us to follow all our days ahead."
-- Clarissa Pinkola Estés, author of Women Who Run With the Wolves
"An unforgettable testimony to the dignity and courage of African-American women."
-- Shirlee Taylor Haizlip