Silver Rights
  • Silver Rights
  • Silver Rights

Silver Rights

by Constance Curry
     
 

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Silver Rights is a true story of clear-eyed determination, down-home grit, and sweet triumph. It's the story of the Carter family of Sunflower County, Mississippi, African-American sharecroppers on a cotton plantation who, in 1965, sent seven of their thirteen children to desegregate an all-white school system. Mae Bertha and Matthew Carter had a dream for their… See more details below

Overview

Silver Rights is a true story of clear-eyed determination, down-home grit, and sweet triumph. It's the story of the Carter family of Sunflower County, Mississippi, African-American sharecroppers on a cotton plantation who, in 1965, sent seven of their thirteen children to desegregate an all-white school system. Mae Bertha and Matthew Carter had a dream for their children: to get them out of the cotton fields. And they knew of only one way to make it come true: to get them the best available education. So, when white school and county officials cynically met the letter (but not the spirit) of the new civil rights laws with a "Freedom of Choice" policy, the Carters bravely took them up on it and chose the best local schools - the white ones. They were the only Sunflower County blacks who dared. Before long, the Carters' shack was riddled with bullets in the middle of the night. The plantation owner canceled their credit at his store and threw them off the plantation. At school, the Carter children were tormented by white students - and by some of the teachers. For three terrible years, they were all alone in "the lion's den." The story of the Carter children's long, difficult road to high school, college, and a way out of the Delta, comes to life in Constance Curry's firsthand account. And Mae Bertha Carter's letters to the author resonate with this family's fierce determination to win those shining, tantalizing rights that novelist Alice Walker has called "silver."

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
Part narrative, part oral history, this book reclaims a little-known but compelling story about America's uneven progress toward racial justice. The title refers to the locution used by black country folk for ``civil rights,'' an elusive goal in the Mississippi Delta town of Drew, where sharecroppers Matthew and Mae Bertha Carter were the only black parents brave enough to send their kids to newly desegregated schools. Curry, a white field-worker for the American Friends Service Committee, visited the Carters between 1966 and 1975 and monitored their struggle; she here blends her own reflections with Mae Bertha's stories of courage and her children's tales of endurance. Edelman, as an NAACP Defense Fund lawyer, sued the local school district for maintaining segregated facilities despite the law. What emerges most clearly is the Carters' earnest, almost nave belief in justice: when the plantation overseer advised them to return their kids to the black schools, Mae Bertha played a record of President Kennedy's speech supporting the Civil Rights Act. The family endured much harassment, but seven of the 13 Carter children attended the better-equipped white schools and graduated from the only slightly less hostile University of Mississippi. Now daughter Beverly, the only Carter child to return home, is helping her mother fight for black political power. Photos. Author tour. (Oct.)
Lillian Lewis
Alice Walker has observed that the expression "civil rights" when pronounced by older black country people becomes "silver rights" and that she always felt that those older blacks imparted "music" to the term. This idea is the backdrop Curry uses in this study about the Carters, a Mississippi family of sharecroppers. Matthew and Mae Bertha demonstrated great courage in their involvement in the civil rights movement, most importantly by defying the odds for survival when they enrolled 7 of their 13 children in the Drew, Mississippi, school system. Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 mandated that states integrate their schools. Mississippi's interpretation of that law was "freedom of choice" papers, which allowed parents to designate the schools they wanted their children to attend. The Carters' determination to ensure that their children would receive a top-notch education was the beginning of their long, hard, and initially lonely road to integrating the schools and playing an important role in the Mississippi civil rights movement. We should be grateful to and inspired by the lives of the Carter family, particularly since the civil rights agenda is increasingly under attack.

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Product Details

ISBN-13:
9781565120952
Publisher:
Algonquin Books of Chapel Hill
Publication date:
01/28/1995
Pages:
288
Product dimensions:
6.34(w) x 8.24(h) x 1.03(d)

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