Idella Parker: From Reddick to Cross Creek

Article excerpt

Idella Parker: From Reddick to Cross Creek. By Idella Parker with Bud and Liz Crussell. (Gainesville and other cities: University Press of Florida, c. 1999. Pp. xvi, 213. $19.95, ISBN 0-8130-1706-8.)

Idella Parker's account of her early years reveals how education facilitated the escape of young African Americans from the sharecropping life that replaced slave plantation labor. She also indicates the thin line between the blue collar and white collar status in the African American world, particularly for women. Parker had training and experience as a teacher, yet she entered domestic service. This choice led to her complex and momentous relationship with Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings. Parker took care of the author and ran the household so that Rawlings could work without interruption. Rawlings demonstrated her gratitude by providing the type of protection and support from a powerful white person that many black people relied on during the era of segregation. Parker conveys that, for her, it was a "love-hate" relationship, and that Rawlings's alcoholism caused many problems. Also, Rawlings was not able to regard Parker as an equal person. Parker resented this fact and was further pained upon reading Rawlings's posthumously published letters that included disparaging and racist comments about African Americans.

Despite racism and personal difficulties, Parker and Rawlings shared a great bond. Each was an independent women. …