"Old people knew things that we'll probably never know," confides one interview subject in this viscerally powerful book and compact disc compilation of firsthand accounts of the Jim Crow era. Drawing on the 1,200 interviews with African-Americans that make up the Duke University collection called Behind the Veil: Documenting African American Life in the Jim Crow South,
this sequel to the book-and-audio compilation Remembering Slavery
offers testimonies by people from 25 communities in 10 states, representing diverse economic, social and cultural lifestyles—urban and rural, industrial and agricultural, Piedmont and Delta. Readers and listeners will confront "the dailiness of the terror blacks experienced at the hands of capricious whites" and of "the capacity of the black community to come to each other's aid and invent means of sustaining the collective will to survive." The editors provide lucid historical context for recollections of family, work, school and church. "[S]tories of rapes and beatings, of houses burned to the ground and land stolen, of harrowing escapes in the middle of the night" appear alongside accounts of "the extraordinary and multiple ways in which resistance to Jim Crow occurred and was nourished." Some of the stories are so extreme as to seem absurd—white singers mistakenly sent to a black club conceal themselves under pancake makeup; a county's average expenditure for white students is $40.68 per student, and for black students, $5.95. This moving, deeply instructive book reveals how "African Americans developed their own life, hidden and estranged from the lives of white people." Two one-hour compact discs, 50 b&w photos. Appendixes not seen by PW. (Nov.)
Remembering Slavery attracted countless readers and listeners, partly because public radio stations broadcast the tapes. Expect a similar reception for this volume.