History Firsthand

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

{Bessie and Sadie}

I recently finished reading Having Our Say: The Delany Sisters' First 100 Years, a delightful "oral history" about two sisters (Sadie and Bessie Delany) that lived into their 100's.  Sadie and Bessie were born in the late 1800's and lived into the 1990's.  What I loved about their story was getting to see how two sisters survived together with completely opposite personalities.  Sadie was the sweet one, and Bessie was the blunt and feisty one. As Bessie says in the book, "If Sadie is molasses, then I am vinegar!"  Both sisters dealt with life differently, and yet they lived during the same history. Their viewpoints on what went on in their lives could be polar opposites, but for the most part they coexisted and thrived with each other.

It is fascinating to read history through their eyes, firsthand.  Their father was a slave. The sisters lived through the Jim Crow laws, the Harlem Renaissance, and the Civil Rights Movement.  They met and/or knew many key historical figures (within the African American community) during their lifetimes.  Their wit and wisdom come through like when Sadie says, "Life is short, and it's up to you to make it sweet."  Or when Bessie explains how they lived past a hundred years with, "Honey, we never married. We never had husbands to worry us to death." 

Currently, my oldest is reading Having Our Say because I thought that it just couldn't be passed up.  Their story, their humor and their wisdom makes it well worth the read.  Besides, I would love for my sons to get some of their history through stories...stories of regular people who lived through amazing history. Because when it comes right down to it, that is how history happens.  We live our daily lives all the while history is being created around us.  It happened to the Delany sisters. It happens to us all.


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