Having our say

Essay by EssaySwap ContributorCollege, Undergraduate February 2008

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This book is tough to take as humorous yet its touching to look at racism in America, but Emily Mann's Having Our Say, manages to pull off the feat. Having Our Say really makes you think and try to somehow reflex on the past as if you were actually there. As a white male I amazed at how these two African American sister were able to live over a hundred years of racism and discrimination and then be able to write about their experience in humorous, yet to me very heart touching way. Having Our Say chronicles the lives of "Sadie" and "Bessie" Delaney, two elderly colored sisters (they prefer the term colored to African-American, black, and negro), who are finally having their say, now that everyone who ever kept them down is long dead. Sadie and "Bessie" tell the stories of their intriguing lives, from their Southern Catholic school upbringing to their involvement in the civil rights movement in New York City.

"Sadie" is the older (103 years old) and sweeter of the sisters. The first colored high school teacher in the New York Public School System, "Sadie" considers herself to be the Booker T. Washington of the sisters, always shying away from conflict and looking at both sides of the issue.

"Bessie" is the younger sister (101 years old) and is much more aggressive. A self-made dentist who was the only colored female at Columbia University when she attended dentistry school there, "Bessie" is the W.E.B. Dubois of the sisters, never backing down from any type of confrontation.

As the sisters tell the stories of their ancestors and then of themselves, and how they have endured over 150 years of racism in America, they tend focus mainly on the struggles that they encountered as colored women.