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Papa Delany expected his sons and daughters to leave the haven of St. After graduating in , Sadie took a job as a circuit-riding teacher introducing domestic science to black schools so that she could save enough money to continue on to a four-year college. It was an eye-opener. I realized that I was a child of privilege, and that I must share my good fortune. Your job is to help people. Bessie also left St. Her first post was in the small rural town of Boardman, North Carolina. In , Bessie moved on to another teaching post in Brunswick, Georgia.

If you were colored and tried on a hat or a pair of shoes, you owned them. It was traveling to Brunswick that Bessie came close to being lynched. She was in a colored waiting room, waiting to change trains at the station, when a drunken white man stuck his head in and started leering at her. Soon there were dozens of white people milling about, with the drunk bellowing at the top of his lungs. And it helped that the white man was drunk as a skunk, and that turned off some of the white people. As far as we were concerned, Harlem was as close to Heaven as we were going to find on this Earth.

By the early s, there were more than , black people living in Harlem.


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Among those who made the pilgrimage were nine of the Delany children. Sadie moved first in , followed by Bessie, a year and a half later. Their brother Harry was already there, working as a porter and saving money to attend New York University. Brother Lucius had rented an apartment at Seventh Avenue at the corner of th Street. Sadie, Bessie, Julia, Hubert all moved in with him. The landlady was a Marcus Garvey disciple. Her first teaching job in New York was at P. They most certainly did not want us in schools where the children were white. Or maybe change the world a little bit, just by changing me?

Since discrimination was the given, advancement sometimes required something other than the right qualifications. Sadie wanted to teach at the high school level, an opportunity denied black teachers. So Sadie employed a ruse. She applied for a high school position and waited three years to rise to the top of the seniority list. To avoid the personal interview which would have revealed her race , she skipped the meeting and sent a letter pretending some mixup.

Then, she just showed up on the first day of classes. A colored woman! But my name was on the list to teach there, and it was too late for them to send me someplace else.

Bessie enrolled at Columbia University in to study dentistry. Out of a class of students, there were eleven women, six black men, and one black woman. In addition to the normal rigors of a professional education, Bessie also had to work to pay her tuition, as well as endure the scrutiny and discrimination that being the only black woman in the class brought her. She had to be better than everyone else, just in order to survive. If you are going to make it, you have to be entirely honest, clean, brilliant, and so on.

It was here that Bessie made the decision to place career over marriage and family.


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The Delanys continued their family tradition of sticking together even in their professional lives. Bessie opened an office in the center of Harlem with her brother Hap, and later they moved to another set of offices which they shared with brother Lucius, an attorney. I was always proud of my work, and that was enough for me. The Delany family also participated in the center of Harlem political and cultural life. Brother Lucius had rented an apartment at Seventh Avenue at the corner of th Street.

Sadie, Bessie, Julia, Hubert all moved in with him. The landlady was a Marcus Garvey disciple. Her first teaching job in New York was at P.

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They most certainly did not want us in schools where the children were white. Or maybe change the world a little bit, just by changing me? Since discrimination was the given, advancement sometimes required something other than the right qualifications. Sadie wanted to teach at the high school level, an opportunity denied black teachers.

So Sadie employed a ruse. She applied for a high school position and waited three years to rise to the top of the seniority list. To avoid the personal interview which would have revealed her race , she skipped the meeting and sent a letter pretending some mixup.

Another story for a displaced family, the hero this time is the elder sister

Then, she just showed up on the first day of classes. A colored woman! But my name was on the list to teach there, and it was too late for them to send me someplace else.


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Bessie enrolled at Columbia University in to study dentistry. Out of a class of students, there were eleven women, six black men, and one black woman. In addition to the normal rigors of a professional education, Bessie also had to work to pay her tuition, as well as endure the scrutiny and discrimination that being the only black woman in the class brought her. She had to be better than everyone else, just in order to survive.

If you are going to make it, you have to be entirely honest, clean, brilliant, and so on.

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It was here that Bessie made the decision to place career over marriage and family. The Delanys continued their family tradition of sticking together even in their professional lives. Bessie opened an office in the center of Harlem with her brother Hap, and later they moved to another set of offices which they shared with brother Lucius, an attorney.

I was always proud of my work, and that was enough for me. The Delany family also participated in the center of Harlem political and cultural life. Louis T. Wright, and James Weldon Johnson. They were friendly with William Kelly, founder of the Amsterdam News , the famous and influential black newspaper. Bessie became actively involved in the burgeoning civil rights movement. I marched in more protests in New York City than I care to remember. DuBois, the militant black rights activist and editor of The Crisis. Activism brought out the differences in styles between the two sisters, and in the Delany family.

Bessie was a firebrand and sided with Dubois and his followers. Sadie was conciliatory, as was Papa Delany, siding with Booker T.

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Washington, the black rights moderate whom she used to chauffeur around on his visits to the Delany home in North Carolina. But it seemed that no matter how much I had to put up with as a woman, the bigger problem was being colored… But one of the happiest moments of my life was back in when women got the right to vote. Sadie and I registered to vote immediately and we have never missed a chance to vote since. When Mama and I were in Russia… we thought it was a most interesting place, but poor.

I remember maids admiring our clothes at a hotel. I wanted to go out and buy us some fruit, but it was so expensive—a ruble for a single pear. This delighted Sadie and Bessie, and they indulged her, including her new-found wanderlust.