The Best of Enemies: Race and Redemption in the New South / Edition 1

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C. P. Ellis grew up in the poor white section of Durham, North Carolina, and as a young man joined the Ku Klux Klan. Ann Atwater, a single mother from the poor black part of town, quit her job as a household domestic to join the civil rights fight. During the 1960s, as the country struggled with the explosive issue of race, Atwater and Ellis met on opposite sides of the public school integration issue. Their encounters were charged with hatred and suspicion. In an amazing set of transformations, however, each of them came to see how the other had been exploited by the South's rigid power structure, and they forged a friendship that flourished against a backdrop of unrelenting bigotry.

Rich with details about the rhythms of daily life in the mid-twentieth-century South, The Best of Enemies offers a vivid portrait of a relationship that defied all odds. By placing this very personal story into broader context, Osha Gray Davidson demonstrates that race is intimately tied to issues of class, and that cooperation is possible—even in the most divisive situations—when people begin to listen to one another.

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
A well-crafted portrait of the evolution of race relations in Durham, N.C.—and of America's tendency to ignore issues of class.

Publishers Weekly

Mr. Davidson's book provides a brilliant beginning for understanding the South's many poor sons and daughters, black and white.

The Dallas Morning News

A powerful testament to the redemptive powers of human nature.


From Barnes & Noble
It was loathing at first sight when militant black activist Ann Atwater and "poor white" K.K.K. member C.P. Ellis met on opposite sides of the public school integration issue in their hometown of Durham, North Carolina, in the late 1960s. Their confrontations were frequent, loud, and deeply charged with racial hatred and suspicion. Then, in 1972, Ann and C.P. agreed to co-chair an extended forum on court-ordered desegregation. In the intensity of the debate, they discovered to their amazement how much they had in common. Marginalized by poverty and class, each had been exploited by the South's rigid power structure. And as parents, both fervently wanted their children to grow up with a sense of dignity and self-respect. Slowly, cautiously, and against all odds, Ann and C.P. began to forge a friendship that transcended racial bigotry and mistrust. This is the story of that unlikely friendship, told with candor, poignancy, and great narrative skill. B&W photos.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780807858691
  • Publisher: The University of North Carolina Press
  • Publication date: 8/27/2007
  • Edition description: 1
  • Edition number: 1
  • Pages: 352
  • Sales rank: 795,497
  • Product dimensions: 6.10 (w) x 9.20 (h) x 0.90 (d)

Meet the Author

Osha Gray Davidson is a journalist and author of four other books, including The Enchanted Braid: Coming to Terms with Nature on the Coral Reef and Under Fire: The NRA and the Battle for Gun Control.

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