Study Guide

Having Our Say Part V, Chapter 17: Bessie

By Sarah and A. Elizabeth Delany with Amy Hill Hearth

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).