Study Guide

Having Our Say Principles

By Sarah and A. Elizabeth Delany with Amy Hill Hearth

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My father would usually call my mother [...] Mrs. Delany in front of everyone [...] But the reason they did this is that colored people were always called by their first names in that era. It was a way of treating them with less dignity (1.1.8)

Henry is smart enough to see the subtle ways that white people degrade black people and strong-willed enough to fight them. That's a great combo, because it allows him to raise his children free of the more invisible (and insidious) forms of prejudice of the time.

The world is a puzzling place today. All these banks sending us credit cards, with our names on them. Well, we didn't order any credit cards! We don't spend what we don't have. (1.3.7)

You can bet your iPhone that the extravagances of the modern world don't make any sense to our principled sisters. Even at 100+ years of age, they still live by their father's code of thrift, discipline, and self-sufficiency.

We were good citizens, good Americans! We loved our country, even though it didn't love us back. (3.8.25)

The key to the Delanys' code of ethics is that they are good people, end of story. Can anyone really argue with that?

Papa really had that good old American spirit. He believed in individuality, but at the same time, he was dedicated to the community. (4.10.12)

It's both sad and beautiful that a man who was born into slavery has such a strong sense of the American Dream. In the end, it is this full-hearted belief that keeps him and his family on the right path.

Mama and Papa tried to protect us, but the real world was out there, and they couldn't shelter us forever. (4.12.12)

Of course, there have to be downsides to the strict Delany code, a sheltered upbringing ranking high among them. But that's a small price to pay for the benefits, if you ask us.

But as my Papa used to say, "Don't ever give up. Remember, they can segregate you, but they can't control your mind. Your mind's still yours." (5.17.22)

Henry is strict but not controlling. This prevents Sadie and Bessie from ever rebelling against his principles because he proves, time and time again, that he only has their best interests at heart.

The way to succeed was simple: You had to be better at what you did than any of your white competition. That was the main thing. (5.18.2)

Sadie learned this lesson from her father and it served her well. In all truth, it's a good principle for all of us to keep, whether we're white, black, brown, or even a pretty shade of teal.

Am I going to change the world, or am I going to change me? Or maybe change the world a little bit, by changing me? (5.18.9)

As time goes on, Sadie and Bessie build on their parents' principles with their own life experience. This quote is so good it should be printed in Bartlett's.

We Delanys are as patriotic as anyone. We were Americans! Our blood and sweat was invested in this land, and we were ready to protect it. (6.27.6)

There's nothing wrong with some good old-fashioned patriotism. Frankly, it blows our minds that the Delanys are so loyal to a country that mistreated them for so long, but we're grateful for it.

What those folks didn't understand was that Hap was a Delany, and the harder they tried to push him out, the more he dug in his heels. (7.30.3)

Delany Rule #1 is to be stubborn. Don't ever take no for an answer. Don't ever let someone crush your dreams. Don't ever stop fighting for what you believe in. If that doesn't work, then start at step one and do it all again.

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