Study Guide

Having Our Say

Having Our Say Summary

So you want to know about the Delanys, huh? Well, let's start at the beginning.

First Generation

Henry Delany is seven years old when the Civil War ends. Unlike many former slaves, Henry is still with his entire family and is able to read and write. Both of these facts prove be very helpful in those early years. Being a smart cookie, Henry decides to attend St. Augustine's College in Raleigh and become a member of the clergy.

Nanny Logan is the daughter of a free black woman named Martha Logan and a white hillbilly named James Miliam. She's a pretty smart cookie too (can you tell it's almost lunchtime?) so she decides to attend where else but St. Augustine's College. That's where she falls in love with hunky Henry Delany, whom she marries and has ten kids with.

The Next Generation

Meet Sadie and Bessie, their oldest daughters. They're both sharp girls (especially after growing up at St. Aug's) who spend their early twenties traveling and teaching at underprivileged schools. Once they've saved up enough money, they decide to go to college in New York City.

Now living in Harlem, Bessie becomes a dentist and Sadie becomes a teacher. They encounter a bunch of discrimination over the course of their education and careers but still manage to excel at a high level. Harlem goes through plenty of highs and lows—most notably the Great Depression—but our persistent sisters work hard and support their community.

Nanny moves in with the sisters after Henry passes away and the three of them have some great times together. But that doesn't mean things are easy: Bessie is forced to quit her job to care for Nanny and the three of them move to the Bronx. Then, when Nanny passes away in 1956, the sisters decide to make their biggest move yet—to the suburbs.

Last Ladies Standing

At the time of the book's writing, both sisters are over one hundred years old. Although they faced plenty of discrimination when they first moved to the suburbs of Mount Vernon, that too has faded over time. And don't think that these two ladies have calmed down in their old age—if you put your ear to their wall in the middle of the night, you can still hear those two sisters laughing and having a rollicking good time.

  • Preface

    • Co-author Amy Hill Hearth describes how she first got in touch with the Delany sisters, who are around one hundred years old and live in Mount Vernon, New York.
    • Hearth had first met them while writing an article for The New York Times, eventually getting close enough to them that they trusted her to tell their stories.
    • Over an eighteen-month period, Sadie and Bessie tell their life story to Hearth. Each chapter is titled with the name of the sister who told the story.
  • Part I, Introduction

    • Sadie and Bessie are the daughters of Henry Beard Delany, the first black Episcopalian bishop in the United States. Mad props! Their family would go on to become a prominent force among African Americans during the era.
  • Part I, Chapter 1: Sadie

    • Sadie and Bessie "have been together since time began" (1.1.1). She's not messing around—Sadie is 101 years old and Bessie is 103.
    • Neither of them ever married, so they've lived together for their entire lives. Before retirement, Sadie was a high school teacher and Bessie was a dentist, leaving them just enough savings to get by.
    • Although they've "lived in New York for the last seventy-five years," they grew up in Raleigh, North Carolina (1.1.7).
    • Their parents met at St. Augustine's School in Raleigh and were married in 1886. They would go on to have ten kids, including Sadie and Bessie. Talk about keeping busy!
    • Although their father was born a slave, he would go on to become the "first elected Negro bishop of the Episcopal Church, U.S.A." (1.1.9)
    • Their mother, Nanny Logan, was a free woman during the age of slavery. Although she could have pretended to be white if she had wanted to, she refused to sell out her race.
    • Sadie is the second-oldest Delany child, born in 1889. Bessie (born Annie Elizabeth) was born two years later.
    • While Sadie is a "calm and agreeable" "'mama's child,'" Bessie is "outspoken" and "quick to anger" (1.1.17). Sounds like a good time to us!
  • Part I, Chapter 2: Bessie

    • Bessie can remember getting bullied by an older girl when she was younger, but her quick wit and fearlessness nipped that situation in the bud.
    • Sadie's soft-spoken nature is inspired by their father. Bessie knows that she's less pleasant than her older sister, but she can't help the fact that she has a 'tude.
    • Sometimes, Bessie even hates "all white people," but she knows in her heart that she's mostly thinking of the racist "rebby boys" that would torment her during her youth (1.2.7-8).
    • Bessie suspects that she's bitterer than Sadie because she's "darker" than her, and "the darker you are [...] the harder it is" (1.2.12).
  • Part I, Chapter 3: Sadie

    • Bessie thinks that she's "a little psychic" (1.3.1). Whoah. Although Sadie doesn't buy into it completely, even she must admit that her sister has something going on.
    • The sisters live an isolated life these days: no telephone, no credit cards, and no computer. They get visitors sometimes, but only spend time with neighbors and family members.
  • Part I, Chapter 4: Bessie

    • Sadie and Bessie share their home with another family, and those neighbors are shocked by how much noise these elderly sisters make late at night—they even wonder if there's a ghost in the house! Who you gonna call?
    • Bessie believes that they are still able to have a good time because "oppressed people have a good sense of humor" (1.4.5).
    • They even celebrate their father's birthday each year by cooking his favorite meal and making cake.
    • Bessie attributes their longevity to the fact that they avoid doctors and stay active. Sure beats a retirement home, huh?
  • Part II, Introduction

    • Henry—the sisters' father—is still young when the Civil War ends. The Delanys work inside the plantation house and are taught to read and write—a rarity among slaves.
    • The Logans—their mother's family—are free citizens who live in Virginia. Although they weren't enslaved, they face plenty of discrimination from white citizens.
  • Part II, Chapter 5: Sadie and Bessie - Our Papa's People

    • Henry Delany is born on February 5, 1858, seven years before the "The Surrender," which is what he calls the end of the Civil War (2.5.1).
    • Henry never tells his children about the slavery days, except for his celebration at hearing the news.
    • He does, however, tell them that the Mocks—his former owners—were "as good as any people you could find anywhere" (2.5.5). Needless to say, the kids have a hard time understanding that.
    • The Mocks love Henry's mother Sarah, so they allow her to get married, which would not have been legally recognized at the time. She marries Thomas Delany and they have eleven kids.
    • After "The Surrender," the Delany family moves to Florida. They're able to get by without begging because their whole family is together and they can read and write.
    • Although he was raised Methodist, Henry converts to the Episcopalian church after a white reverend helps him attend St. Augustine's School in North Carolina.
    • That's where he meets Nanny James Logan, a "pretty gal" and "class valedictorian" (2.5.18). This guy just hit the jackpot.
  • Part II, Chapter 6: Sadie and Bessie - Our Mama's People

    • Nanny Logan is born in Yak, Virginia to James Miliam—a white man who also happens to be the "meanest-looking man" in the town—and Martha Logan, a black freewoman (2.6.2).
    • The story is that a man named James Logan left home for the War of 1812 and returned to find that his wife had two daughters with a slave. To everyone's surprise, he raised the daughters as his own.
    • Those two girls are named Patricia and Eliza. Eliza has a relationship with a white man and their first daughter is named Martha.
    • Although Martha is "one-quarter Negro" and free-born, she is not legally recognized by society or even allowed to marry (2.6.8). As a result, Martha and James never tie the knot, but remain committed for their whole lives.
    • Mr. Miliam makes it clear that no one should mess with Martha—most black women at the time were constantly harassed or worse (2.6.12).
    • He's also a jack-of-all-trades: a farmer, amateur dentist, and herbal doctor. Martha isn't too shabby herself, starting her own business selling pasteurized dairy products.
    • They have two daughters: Eliza and Nanny. Although Eliza gets married young, Nanny is dead-set on going to college.
    • Martha moves to Raleigh with Nanny after she decides to go to St. Augustine's. She would still come home to visit James all the time, however.
    • Martha passes away in 1908 at sixty-six years of age. James is devastated.
    • One time, a guest at his house insults Harry (Sadie and Bessie's brother) at dinner. James flips out and tells him to get out of this house before he finds "himself dead" (2.6.25).
    • James dies just two years after Martha passes, and the sisters believe that it was mostly due to grief. He leaves his money to Nanny and is buried beside Martha.
  • Part III, Introduction

    • Although the black community agrees that getting educated is the path to prosperity, there is much debate over how exactly to do that, especially because they are barred from attending most white universities.
    • This leads to the creations of the nation's Historically Black Universities—St Augustine's in Raleigh among them.
  • Part III, Chapter 7: Sadie and Bessie

    • Nanny is ashamed that her parents weren't able to get married, so she is determined to find a hubby in North Carolina, where race restrictions are less strict.
    • There's no shortage of men looking to put a ring on it at St. Aug's. Luckily, she falls in love with Henry, "a man of the highest quality" (3.7.2).
    • They get married right after Henry graduates despite his advisers warning him to focus on his career. Aw, that hits us right in the feels!
    • Lemuel is the first Delany kid; Sadie and Bessie (our narrators, if you forgot) are born over the next four years, followed by Julia, Harry, Lucius, William, Hubert, Laura, and Samuel. Phew.
    • The kids grow up on St. Aug's campus, where their "every move was chaperoned," either by their parents or their father's cousin Culot (3.7.8).
    • As kids, Sadie and Bessie work on the campus farm to earn extra money. These girls must've been little Ronda Rousey's because they were moving hundreds of pounds of crops a day!
    • Although the Delanys enjoy a stable life, there are many in their community who are not so lucky, like Mr. Holloway and Aunt Sukey. Henry and Nanny encourage the kids to help these needy former slaves.
    • A man named Uncle Jesse arrives in town and is cared for by Nanny. He goes on to become a mail carrier for the school, and the kids would often "go to his old farmhouse and clean it out" (3.7.22).
    • When Uncle Jesse dies, the family holds a small funeral in the black cemetery. Although the white cemetery across the way holds more elaborate ceremonies, Henry "presided over the service as if he was burying the king of England himself" (3.7.25).
  • Part III, Chapter 8: Sadie

    • Although the parents work crazy hard to make ends meet, they always make time for the kids. Sure, it's sometimes just to dole out discipline, but they're always there.
    • Henry and Nanny start each morning with an "'inspection'" to see if the kids' "shoes were polished" and "ears were clean" (3.8.10).
    • During the day, the kids attend school on campus while their dad leads religious services. Although the Delanys are considered "an elite family," the truth is that "money was very tight" (3.8.14).
    • The kids rebel against their dad's discipline occasionally, but his concerns always seem to be proven right.
    • The only time the sisters get physically punished by their father is after they wander away from campus. The sisters agree to take the punishment without crying, but Sadie chickens out after seeing the pain that Bessie goes through.
  • Part III, Chapter 9: Bessie

    • To this day, Bessie is still a little mad about that whole incident. Who could blame her?
    • Bessie believes that she gets her feistiness from her mom—neither woman takes any malarkey from anyone. Her father, on the other hand, is usually "gentle and calm" because he wants to present the family in a "dignified fashion" (3.9.4).
    • The family has to hunt for food, but they never kill for sport. Once, Lemuel trips while holding a shotgun and is shot in the hand, but this near-death experience inspires to become a doctor.
    • Later, the typhoid epidemic hits St. Aug's. Although Sadie gets a mild case of "walking typhus," Bessie gets super sick and is "hospitalized for about six weeks" (3.9.9). It isn't until she convinces her hospital neighbor to give her a piece of cornbread that she finally recovers.
    • Luckily, Nanny is "real fussy about germs" and "ahead of her time about vitamins and minerals" (3.9.19). In fact, she makes breakfast cereal before breakfast cereal is a thing!
    • The one thing the kids know nothing about is sex. Although Bessie occasionally sneaks into the barn for some illicit romance novel sessions, it's not until she's an adult that she actually learns what sex is.
    • The Delanys are "good Christian [...] citizens" and "Americans" (3.9.24-25). Their one vice? Late-night jam sessions. Aw yeah.
  • Part IV, Introduction

    • Although black Americans are no longer enslaved, they still aren't truly free. This inequality becomes codified in the Jim Crow laws that enforce segregation, starting in 1896. It will take nearly 60 years for these laws to be removed from the rule books.
  • Part IV, Chapter 10: Sadie And Bessie

    • In the sisters' opinion, Jim Crow laws are created because black people have started to "get their piece of the pie" and "accumulate some wealth" (4.10.2).
    • Jim Crow Laws are especially opposed to the mixing of the races, despite the fact that many people in the South (whether "white" or "black") are of mixed racial descent.
    • The sisters encounter the new laws for the first time when they're forced to the back of a public trolley. Then, when they exit the bus, they notice a segregated water fountain! Bessie, being one bad mother shut-your-mouth, drinks out of the white water fountain out of spite. We <3 Bessie.
    • A few days later they're kicked out of their usual drugstore because of their race. The irony is that the man who kicks them out also happens to have "a colored family on the side" (4.10.10).
    • These laws set back race relation a long way. It's around this time that Henry starts only buying from black-owned businesses to support his people.
  • Part IV, Chapter 11: Sadie

    • Because Raleigh is a "fairly liberal" area, the girls don't have much trouble with white people before Jim Crow—they're even friendly with the elderly Confederate veterans who hang around the city center (4.11.1).
    • One time, a pair of missionaries from the North gives them each fancy a china doll. Bessie pulls what we like to call a "Bessie" and paints her doll to match her own skin color.
    • Their favorite white person is Miss Grace Moseley, a young teacher at St. Aug's who is a true believer in racial equality. She reads them Shakespeare almost every night.
    • Things get weird after Jim Crow because most of the family is light-skinned enough to pass as white. One time, a white man is incredibly friendly to Nanny and Sadie before reacting in utter shock when Henry shows up.
    • Sadie's coping strategy is to "play dumb," bypassing restrictions by ignoring them, more or less (4.11.15). She learned from the best: her father
  • Part IV, Chapter 12: Bessie

    • Bessie feels rage at the passing of Jim Crow. Now she has to deal with both the run-of-the-mill ignorant racists and the condescending white people who think that black people "were all stupid" (4.12.8).
    • Even at a young age, Bessie realizes that her darker shade makes her more of a target of racism than her light-skinned family members. This dynamic exists within the black community as well, although her parents forbid any of that in their home.
    • Although the sisters are often offered housekeeping jobs, they manage to go through life without ever working "for white people" in their "entire lives" (4.12.11). Epic win.
    • Then the lynchings start. Now black people can be rounded up and killed for looking at someone the wrong way. At the worst time, entire families are killed.
  • Part IV, Chapter 13: Sadie

    • After graduation, Sadie is faced with the prospect of leaving her sheltered life at St. Aug's for a four-year university. In order to raise money, she starts teaching in disadvantaged communities throughout the South.
    • She becomes a "Jeanes Supervisor" and helps "introduce domestic science to colored schools in many parts of the South" (4.13.7).
    • One day, Lemuel returns from medical school with a swanky new car, which Sadie learns to drive like a pro. She even becomes Booker T. Washington's personal driver when he's in town, which is pretty boss.
    • Times are tough. Sadie stays with the O'Kellys during her travels and the family ends up losing its mother and a daughter to tuberculosis.
    • Despite her very adult responsibilities, Sadie still lives at home and her father is "still in charge of [her] social life" (4.13.22).
    • She dates this one guy named Frank who Henry thinks talks too much. Henry eventually bans Sadie from seeing him after rumors of an affair with a nurse reaches his ears.
  • Part IV, Chapter 14: Bessie

    • Like her sister, Bessie leaves home to teach and raise money for college. She moves to Boardman, North Carolina, a small town where she "was the most exciting thing that happened [...] in about a hundred years" (4.14.8).
    • Her students love her despite the fact that she's one tough teacher. And the fellas, well, let's just say that they were going wild for Bessie too.
    • While in Boardman, Bessie stays with the Atkinsons. Although she loves the family, she can't help but feel homesick for her comfortable life back in Raleigh.
    • After two years, Bessie moves to Brunswick, Georgia. Although Georgia is a "mean place," the city of Brunswick is at least somewhat like Raleigh (4.14.30). In fact, Bessie meets a woman named Gooch there who will become her best friend.
    • A few years later, Bessie is almost lynched. As she's boarding a train, a drunk white man approaches and berates her. Never one to back down from a fight, Bessie has a few words for him too.
    • The drunk man loses it and a crowd of white people gather. Luckily, even the white people can see that the man is drunk out of his mind, and the arrival of a train stops the situation before it escalates any further.
    • Throughout all of this, Bessie doesn't even move—she "would rather die than back down" (4.14.40).
  • Part V, Introduction

    • During the 1920's and '30s, Harlem becomes the epicenter of an artistic and cultural movement known as the Harlem Renaissance.
    • Harlem has two distinct sides to it: the freewheeling partying of the Jazz Age and the respectful church-going of conservative families.
  • Part V, Chapter 15: Sadie and Bessie

    • The sisters visit New York City for the first time in 1913. The sheer size of the city blows their minds.
    • Swooning, the sisters decide to move to NYC for college. Eventually, all of the "Delany children, except Lemuel, moved to New York City" (5.15.7).
    • Although they spend a few months in a wealthy family's living room, their brother Lucius gets an apartment and the whole clan moves in. Although Lucius is on the lease, everyone knows that the sisters run the show.
    • The only brother who doesn't follow the sisters' every direction is Manross, who's as "stubborn as a mule" (5.15.17).
    • Later, Manross fights in World War II, believing that his service would earn him respect from his white peers. He is sorely disappointed.
  • Part V, Chapter 17: Bessie

    • Bessie decides to follow in her brother Harry's footsteps and becomes a dentist. She attends Columbia, where there were only "eleven women" and "six colored men" in a class of 170 (5.16.3). She was the only woman of color in the entire program.
    • Bessie and her sister Julia work at factories for extra cash. Bessie is treated worse than Julia because she has darker skin.
    • Bessie works hard and excels at dental school. She even manages to stay cool while dissecting a cadaver. (We would be pulling a Macaulay Culkin if we were her.)
    • Despite her obvious skills, Bessie is faced with tons of prejudice. One time she lets a white friend turn in work that had earned her failing grades and the white girl passes with flying colors.
    • During graduation, none of her white classmates even "wanted to march beside [her] in front of their parents" (5.17.30).
  • Part V, Chapter 18: Sadie

    • In 1918, Henry becomes a bishop. Ironically, the Delanys have to sit in a segregated section and are denied Communion during his induction ceremony.
    • Like her father, Sadie believes that, in order to succeed, "you had to be better at what you did than any of your white competition" (5.18.2). She starts teaching at P.S. 119 in Harlem a few years after Henry becomes a bishop.
    • Sadie sells homemade candy for spare money until the Depression takes its toll on people's pocketbooks.
    • In her heart, Sadie really wants to work at another high school, but she knows that her race will hinder her. Cleverly, she manages to avoid meeting the board of education council and just shows up to work on the first day.
    • She's plenty busy in her off time too, studying for her Master's degree at Columbia and "teaching adults who dropped out of school" at night (5.18.17).
  • Part V, Chapter 19: Bessie

    • After graduating from school, Doctor Bessie joins her brother's practice in the heart of Harlem.
    • Although she faces discrimination based on both race and gender, she proves herself to be a skilled dentist "that [...] would take any patient, no matter how sick" (5.19.10).
    • Bessie serves not only poor clients (often pro-bono), but also much of Harlem's elite.
    • One time at a dentist conference, Bessie is given intentionally wrong directions by a white bellhop, leading her to the men's bathroom. She refers to this moment as "one of the lowest points" in her life (5.19.20).
  • Part V, Chapter 20: Sadie

    • Things get pretty wild during the Jazz Age, but Sadie and Bessie keep it classy—they're still "Bishop Delany's daughters," after all (5.20.5). That being said, they are known to rub elbows with the rich and famous from time to time.
    • Around 1926, Hap (aka Harry) buys a building and the kids all move in. Although it's small, they're still together.
  • Part V, Chapter 21: Bessie

    • Bessie's experiences with racism in New York prompt her to become a political activist. Once she attends a protest of Birth of a Nation that's led by W.E.B. Dubois.
    • Bessie has valid reasons for her growing political agitation—one night, she's chased down by the KKK in Long Island, of all places.
    • Despite these struggles, "one of the happiest days" of her life is when women are awarded the right to vote in 1920 (5.21.24).
  • Part V, Chapter 22: Sadie

    • Things get tough for everyone in the 20's. Sadie has many students who have rough home lives, their parents having not been "raised properly themselves" (5.22.5).
    • She saves her Cousin Daisy's life by sending her vitamins, minerals, and a detailed dieting plan. Way ahead of the curve on this one, Sadie.
  • Part V, Chapter 23: Bessie

    • In 1928, the sisters receive word that their father is dying. He passes away before they can get back to Raleigh.
    • Now alone in North Carolina, Nanny decides to move to Harlem with her children.
  • Part V, Chapter 24: Sadie

    • Although they're all devastated by Henry's death, Sadie and Nanny make the most of their time together.
    • They travel all over the place: Europe, L.A., Atlantic City, and on and on. They even fly over Niagara Falls in a biplane! What a "beautiful view [...] from up there" (5.24.18)!
  • Part V, Chapter 25: Bessie

    • The only trip Bessie takes is to Jamaica with her friend Mary Watson. While there, Bessie is "treated like royalty by the higher-class" Jamaicans, even though her friend Mary is from Jamaica (5.25.10).
    • When she returns to Harlem, the Depression has already started taking its toll. She and Hap lose their office because they can't pay rent, but manage to scrape enough money together to return in a few months.
    • Despite her own hardships, Bessie does a lot to help her patients. She even gives an old woman her only radio because she would feel guilty if she kept it.
    • One day, a patient tells her that she is going to get an abortion, which would have been illegal and very unsafe at the time. Bessie convinces her to keep the baby by telling her that she will adopt it.
    • Luckily for Bessie, the girl decides to keep her daughter (whom she names Bessie) once she is born.
    • The two Bessies become a sort of mother-daughter pair, which causes some to "raise their eyebrows" (5.25.32).
    • In addition to her private practice, Bessie supports herself by providing services through governmental agencies.
  • Part VI, Introduction

    • Although Harlem weathers the early years of the Great Depression better than most, the neighborhood has begun to feel the impact of the downturn by the '30s.
    • With World War II approaching, the black residents of Harlem passionately support the war effort despite their continued treatment as second-class citizens.
  • Part VI, Chapter 26: Sadie and Bessie

    • As time goes on, Sadie and Bessie's siblings have heaps of kids. One of their nephews, Little Hubie, is born with mental disabilities.
    • Although Little Hubie has many difficulties in life, he's "very charming" and has an "active mind" (6.26.9-10). Sadie and Bessie spend a ton of time with him.
    • They're shocked and devastated when Little Hubie dies in 1943. He's only ten years old.
  • Part VI, Chapter 27: Sadie and Bessie

    • The sisters (along with their mother) move to a different apartment in Harlem. This is in the midst of World War II, so they also set up a small Victory Garden in an empty plot in the Bronx.
    • World War II takes its toll on the Delanys in a variety of ways. There are the little things, like the sugar shortage, which is like "a living hell" for Sadie and Bessie (6.27.5).
    • But there are bigger things too. While serving overseas, Manross saves the life of a white soldier, who tells him to visit his family in North Carolina. When he does, however, the kid's parents refuse to open the door.
    • Their nephew has a similar experience while attending boot camp in the South. He is arrested after talking back to "some white sergeant," and the experience breaks "his health and spirit" (6.27.12).
    • The war ends and the sisters make an important decision—they're moving to Harlem. They buy a house next to their garden and even have a porch installed! That's some good Southern style, if you ask us.
    • As Nanny ages, she becomes more and more absentminded. The sisters decide that one of them should stay home and care for her.
  • Part VI, Chapter 28: Bessie

    • Although Bessie "was never much of a housekeeper," it makes the most sense for her to stay home and care for Nanny (6.28.4).
    • Nanny lives a good life, but the sisters can tell that her time is running out. That being said, she sticks around for quite a while. Like daughter, like mom.
    • Manross and Lemuel die in the mid-'50s. Then, in 1956, Nanny passes away.
    • As you might imagine, Sadie and Bessie are crushed. Over the next few decades, they lose several more siblings as well: Sam, Lucius, and Julia.
  • Part VI, Chapter 29: Sadie

    • With their mother gone, Sadie becomes the head of the family, more or less. Those are some big shoes to fill.
    • Eventually the city tries to "tear down" their "little cottage" and replace it with projects, but Bessie manages to shame the judge into letting them keep their spot (6.29.7).
    • In the end, the city decides to move their house across the street and build the projects anyway. They even leave the house in the middle of the street overnight but the sisters sleep in it anyway.
    • Although they have good relationships with the families that live in the projects, Sadie doesn't understand how the city could "take people who don't have anything, [...] pack them in a bunch of buildings, and expect it's going to all work out somehow" (6.29.11).
    • But then they visit their brother Hap in Mount Vernon, a suburb just outside of New York. Bessie does some research and they decide to make another move—this time, to the 'burbs!
  • Part VII, Introduction

    • In the decades following World War II, the civil rights movement begins to rise to prominence. Despite this, the black middle class is met with blatant hostility by their new white neighbors in the suburbs.
  • Part VII, Chapter 30: Bessie

    • Hap had paved the way for Bessie and Sadie to move to Mount Vernon, but they're still met with plenty of resistance. After a while, most of the white people simply move away.
    • Like most Americans, they're shocked that "all the leaders were getting shot," like "Malcolm X, Martin Luther King" and the Kennedy brothers (7.30.22).
    • They're even angrier after the Vietnam War seems to undo all the progress of the civil rights movement.
    • Bessie believes that it will be "a thousand years" before a black person is elected president (7.30.35). Now, we hate to drop spoilers but…
  • Part VII, Chapter 31: Sadie

    • Although the sisters feel the effects of aging as much as anyone, they stay active and healthy. They do "daily yoga exercises," say their prayers, and eat their vitamins—just like Hulk Hogan always wanted (7.31.6).
    • Bessie hasn't softened in her old age. She still tells people like it is, saving her compassionate side for animals and children. Sadie, on the other hand, has learned to become a bit more like Bessie.
    • One time, a group of kids from "a gang from the Bronx" decide to hang out and cause trouble outside their house (7.31.25). Sadie gives them a stern talking to and that's that.
  • Part VII, Chapter 32: Bessie

    • Bessie is proud that Sadie has become tougher in her old age. Like Lou Reed, she knows that "you need a reason to keep living" and Sadie is that reason (7.32.4).
    • Although some days are better than other, Bessie still enjoys life. She just never thought she'd live long enough that people would be interested in hearing her story.