The social, cultural and political history of America as it affects the life course of American citizens became very real to us as the Delany sisters, Sadie and Bessie, recounted their life course spanning a century of living in their book "Having Our Say." The Delany sisters’ lives covered the period of their childhood in Raleigh, North Carolina, after the "Surrender" to their adult lives in Harlem, New York City during the roaring twenties, to a quiet retirement in suburban, New York City, as self-styled "maiden ladies." At the ages of 102 and 104, these ladies have lived long enough to look back over a century of their existence and appreciate the value of a good family life and companionship, also to have the last laugh that in spite of all their struggles with racism, sexism, political and economic changes they triumphed (Having Our Say).
Of all the ten children of Henry and Nanny Delany, Sadie and Bessie developed a bond of companionship from childhood to the end of their lives. They were even able to complete each other’s thoughts, because they shared what Karl Mannheim described as a "common location in the social and historical process" that "predisposes them for a certain characteristic mode of thought and experience." They therefore, corroborated some of Mannheim’s discussions on "location" and its effect on a generation (Karl Mannheim, The Sociological Problem of Generations, pp. 290-91).
Further, throughout the book, Sadie and Bessie continuously reminds the reader of the strong influence family life had on their entire lives. Their father and mother were college educated and their father was the first black Episcopal priest and vice principal at St. Augustine Co...
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...ieth century America. The majority of blacks during that era, did not possess the family status and class structure that surrounds the Delany sisters and, therefore, it would virtually be impossible for them to succeed at the level the Delanys did. But the Delanys still had their share of personal troubles which was influenced by public issues but they survived and in their own unique, humorous way lived to say:
We’ve outlived those old rebby boys!
That’s one way to beat them!
Delany, S., Delany, A., and Hearth, A. Having Our Say. New York: 1967.
Mannheim, K., Essays on the Sociology of Knowledge. Routledge & Kegan Paul Ltd. 1952.
Bennett, L. Jr. A History of Black America. Sixth edition, Penguin Books: 1993.
Franklin, J., Moss, A. Jr. From Slavery to Freedom. Seventh edition, McGraw Hill, Inc.: 1994.
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