Magazine article Newsweek

The Legacy of My Grandmother

Magazine article Newsweek

The Legacy of My Grandmother

Article excerpt

Byline: Allison Samuels

A few of my more socially progressive girlfriends have expressed surprise and dismay that, as a woman, I seem to feel no particular allegiance to Hillary Clinton and her quest to become the first female president. They question my sisterhood and my support for women attaining real power. I'd like to say their accusations bother me, but they don't.

I come from an African-American family of women born and raised in the Deep South of Augusta, Ga., a place where my grandmother, equipped with just a fifth-grade education, sent each of her eight daughters to college (and beyond) even after the death of my grandfather in the late '50s. In her world, being a woman in control wasn't something she had the luxury of deciding to fight for. She just was. I doubt if she knew there was a feminist movement or ever heard the name Gloria Steinem.

But she most certainly knew what it meant to sit in the back of the bus, drink from colored-only water fountains and work for little or no pay. In her lifetime--as well as my mother's and, to some extent, mine--race, not gender, has been the defining narrative. For my mother and grandmother, race affected basic civil rights. It affects me in less concrete but nonetheless debilitating ways: the demise of the black family, the growing number of young black men behind bars and the faces of Katrina all haunt me and remind me constantly that, until there is an honest conversation about race in this country, African-Americans will continue to lag behind in income, health care and education. …

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