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

The Best of Enemies: Race and Redemption in the New South, by Osha Gray Davidson ($17.78)

Amazon sez:

Billed as the story of the friendship between black activist Ann Atwater and ex-Klansman C. P. Ellis (whose story was broached in Studs Terkel’s Race), this book actually devotes few pages to that relationship. Rather, Davidson (Broken Heartland) has written a well-crafted portrait of the evolution of race relations in Durham, N.C.-and of America’s tendency to ignore issues of class. He describes white Durham’s historical self-delusion on race, and the student-fueled rise of 1960s civil rights activism. Atwater, a poor domestic, became inspired by a community organizer to become a goad to city officials. Meanwhile, Ellis, a poor white laborer who believed in segregation, decided to attend city functions to express the voice of poor whites. A daring city official put Atwater and Ellis in charge of a series of meetings on school desegregation. Ellis learned, to his surprise, that he and black parents shared many of the same class-based fears and concerns; this led to friendship with Atwater and his estrangement from the Klan. Unfortunately, this book ends at that turning point, in the early 1970s.
Copyright 1996 Reed Business Information, Inc. –This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From Booklist

Davidson traces the course of the remarkable friendship that evolved between Ann Atwater, an outspoken black activist, and Claiborne Paul “C. P.” Ellis, a ranking member of the Ku Klux Klan. Both lower-class residents of Durham, North Carolina, Ann and C. P. continually crossed paths and swords during the emotionally charged civil rights movement of the 1960s. When they were asked to serve on a school desegregation committee, they discovered–to their mutual surprise and consternation–that they shared much common ground. In addition to being impoverished members of oppressed classes, both were determined to improve the educational and economic opportunities of their children. Their initially cautious relationship eventually blossomed into a committed friendship based on genuine affection and respect. The author places this tremendously insightful chronicle in its proper context by interweaving the narrative with brief histories of the city of Durham, the civil rights movement, and the Ku Klux Klan. A powerful testament to the redemptive powers of human nature. Margaret Flanagan –This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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