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Delany sisters’ treasured 100 year oral history



The image of American educator and author, Sar...

Sarah Delany, Image via WikipediaBy Robin Foster


By Robin Foster

Last Friday, as I passed the check out desk at the Southeast Branch of Richland County Library, I noticed a display of yellow books on the counter.  Curious, I moved closer on my way out the door to discover it was the book, “Having Our Say:  The Delany Sister’s First 100 Years,” by Sarah and Elizabeth Delany with Amy Hill Hearth.

It was near closing so I decided to come back the next day to check it out.  I noticed that there weren’t many left on Saturday morning.  A closer look at the bookmark that was being given out with the book helped me understand about the initiative called One Book, One Columbia.

The City of Columbia and the Richland County Public Library is encouraging all of its community to read “Having Our Say” between April 1 and May 15. I am so glad the author, Amy Hill Hearth, decided to let the sisters tell their story in their own words. I enjoyed reading this great piece of oral history.

Sadie, born in 1889, and Bessie born in 1891, share candid memories about ancestors and growing up when Jim Crow Laws were passed.  These are honestly the best two first-hand experiences of what life was like for African American women before during and after the Civil Rights Era.  My ancestors were reluctant to share their experiences during this time period.



The image of American dentist and author, Anni...

Elizabeth Delany, Image via Wikipedia


I love that we have this record of their struggles to get an education, earn a living, and make their way after leaving Raleigh, NC and migrating to New York.  This family stuck together and even sacrificed took care of their mother in her old age.  We see how sticking to the principles of virtue and morality, faith, love, education, and service brought them happiness and success.  They worked in the past and they worked for them in the present. Those principles worked for them for over 100 years, and they still work today.

I am proud to live in Richland County where such great effort is being made to bring us all together.  I have not quite figured out what all the objectives are yet for One Book, One Columbia, but I am sure they will be surpassed.  I am looking forward to bumping into friends and neighbors an chatting with them once they get an opportunity to read.

See City of Columbia reads oral history of 100 year old sisters to learn more.  I plan to make some of the local events centered around the the book as well.  Look for me!  Click here to see activities.

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