Sarah and Bessie Delany were extraordinary women. They were very intelligent, kind, yet feisty women. Sarah and Bessie Delany were very close sisters and lived to be one hundred and four and one hundred and nine years of age. The Delany sisters were able to live long because of the way they lived their life. Over all these two women lived a good life and had two loving, caring, and wise parents to help who they have become in our American history, but life for The Delany sisters was not always easy they faced many hardships to have the respect they do today.
In the book Having Our Say The Delany Sisters’ First 100 Years The Delany sisters faced many challenges because they were sheltered, educated and black African American females. The Delany sisters grew up at Saint Augustine’s school in Raleigh, NC. The Delany family was a very religious family and tried to follow all the rules to living a good sinful life (56, 57). Being in their early twenties the Delany sisters world only consist of Saint Aug’s college and downtown Raleigh. They only have visited two places Yak, Virginia and Fernandina, Florida (115).
Henry Delany; the sisters’ father was the first elected African American bishop of the Episcopal churches (3). Therefore the Delany children were look highly upon and the Delany sisters were very sheltered growing up. Bessie talked about how sheltered and clueless she and Sadie were when she made the statement, Our childhood years were so protected, we didn’t have but the vaguest notion of what sex. We had a neighbor who said to us once, “You girls are so green, it’s no wonder those cows don’t mistake you for grass and gobble you up. ” (84).
The Delany sisters didn’t live like normal kids. They help raise their seven younger brother and sisters, and wasn’t aloud to go anywhere off Saint Aug’s campus without supervision. Living in the city of Raleigh when the Delany sisters became young women in their mid twenties they eventually moved to New York after visiting a few time. The two sisters were afraid and didn’t know how to talk to men without feeling uncomfortable they were very educated and disciplined, but when it came to having streets smarts they lack a lot of that (111).
Sadie had one guy friend name frank who took liking to her and her father was not very fond of him and forbidden Sadie from seeing him again. Bessie said “I suppose Lemuel and Papa thought they were doing the right thing by Sadie, forbidding her to see frank anymore, but I don’t think was right. She was a grown woman. She should have had a say” (121). The Delany sisters turned out fine, but if they weren’t so sheltered life could have gone a little smoother for them.
In the early 1900’s it was very rare for any African Americans to have any education beyond high school. All the Delany children went to college and got the education. Sadie Delany graduated from Saint Aug in 1910 and in the same year got her first teaching job working for Wake County public schools in North Carolina (112,113). A few years later Bessie graduated from Saint Aug’s and got a job just like her sister in Boardman, NC. In 1913 Bessie went to Brunswick, GA to teach at an Episcopal school for African American children (130).
In 1915 the Delany sisters took their first trip to New York City and fell in love with the big city (139). The Delany sisters moved there in to further there education. Sadie faced problems when she started school in New York. Sadie said I had a difficult time at first, because I really had to scramble in courses like chemistry. That was a problem for a lot of colored students. Often, our early training was not as good as the white students’ because colored schools had no money. (149) Many whites labeled blacks as “dumb”.
Sadie didn’t get a grade that she deserved in her chemistry class, and the teacher was discriminating against her. The Delany sisters had to prove that they were capable of learning and succeeding just as much as white people were, and it was already hard for them because they were black, but being a black female made it almost impossible to be taken seriously. Being a black person in America was hard living and worse being black and living in the south than anywhere else especially after the Jim Crow laws were passed.
The Delany sisters took trips often to the drug store Bessie said “I was not a crying child, except when it came to being treated badly because of my race, like when they wouldn’t serve us at the drug store counter” (105). Being a black female back in that time they received worse disrespects than just being a black male. But if there were blacks that were lighter skinned they were treated somewhat better because they were close to looking white. Bessie said “To be lighter-skinned was more desirable If you were very dark skinned you were looked down upon.
We saw in our own family that people treated the lighter-skinned children better”. (106) Throughout the Delany sisters life they have had to go through the constant disrespect of race and discrimination. Having gone what the Delany sister went through they became wonderful, courageous, educated women. All the struggle they went through made them stronger and how they lived their life helped them live for as long as they did to tell their life obstacles and achievements.