Sarah Louise (“Sadie”) Delany (1889–1999)
The second Delany child, 103 years
old. Sadie is an obedient child who protests discrimination in a
quiet but determined fashion. She is the first black woman to teach
domestic science at public high schools in New York City.
Annie Elizabeth (“Bessie”) Delany (1891–1995)
The third Delany child, 101 years
old. Vivacious and emotional, Bessie is an outspoken advocate for
civil rights and a respected dentist in New York City.
Amy Hill Hearth
A journalist and the co-author of Having
. Hearth listens to the Delanys’ stories and gathers their
anecdotes into chapters. She is the person the sisters address throughout
the narrative as “child” and “honey.”
Henry Beard Delany (1858–1928)
The Delanys’ father and first elected bishop for
the Episcopal Church in the United States. Born into slavery to
a mother who is part Native American, Henry later becomes the vice
principal at St. Augustine’s School (now College). He encourages
his ten children to attend college and is an amateur astronomer.
Nanny James Logan (1861–1956)
The Delanys’ mother and “matron” of Saint Augustine’s
School. Of mixed parents, Nanny is often mistaken for a white woman during
the Jim Crow era. She has a feisty personality and travels extensively
as an older woman.
James Miliam (c.1840–1910)
Nanny James Logan’s father and devoted partner of
Martha Louise Logan. Known as “the meanest-looking man” in Pittsylvania
County, Virginia, James is an illiterate white farmer and an occasional
dentist and “root doctor,” which means he uses herbs and roots to
cure various maladies.
Martha Louise Logan (1842–1908)
Nanny James Logan’s mother and lifelong partner of
James Miliam. A black woman born to a free mother, Martha has an
entrepreneurial spirit. She owns her own cow and sells pasteurized
milk products. She is a protective mother and accompanies Nanny
Lemuel Thackara Delany (1887–1956)
The first Delany child. Named after the white Episcopal
priest who helps his father attend college, Lemuel is the only Delany
sibling who stays in the South. As a child, he is shot through the
hand in a gun accident. He later becomes a respected physician.
Julia Emery Delany (1893–1974)
The fourth Delany child and a gifted musician. Julia
graduates from the Julliard School of Music in New York City and
later teaches piano. She marries a handsome photographer and is the
mother of Little Hubie.
Henry Delany, Jr. (“Hap” or “Harrie”)
The fifth Delany child. Hap goes to live with Mr.
Miliam after Martha Logan dies. The first Delany to move to New York
City, he works as a Pullman porter to save money for dental school
at New York University. He and Bessie share a dental office in Harlem.
Lucius Delany (1897–1969)
The sixth Delany child and the first of the siblings
to find an apartment in Harlem in the late 1910s.
According to Sadie and Bessie, Lucius is so good-looking that he
makes women crazy.
William Manross Delany (1899–1955)
The seventh Delany child. Manross serves in World
War I and World War II and faces discrimination in the armed forces.
Hubert Thomas Delany (1901–1990)
The eighth Delany child and a New York City political
leader. Hubert pays his way through college by working as a Pullman
porter. He is active in the National Association for the Advancement of
Colored People (NAACP) and becomes a judge. He works closely with
New York City mayor Fiorello La Guardia and knows many celebrities.
Laura Edith Delany (1903–1993)
The ninth Delany child and an outstanding housekeeper.
Laura travels to Los Angeles with a carload of Delanys in 1932 to
watch the Olympics. She eventually moves to California with her husband.
Samuel Ray Delany (1906–1960)
The tenth Delany child. Sam is an undertaker who
dotes on his mother. He dies at fifty-four of lung cancer.
Little Hubie (1933–1943)
Julia’s only child and a special nephew to Sadie
and Bessie. Little Hubie is born “damaged” when a doctor uses forceps
to help his delivery, and he dies when he is ten years old. The
exact type of “damage” Little Hubie suffered is never explained.
Laura E. Beard (“Culot”)
Henry Beard Delany’s cousin. A former slave, Culot
teaches sewing at Saint Aug’s. She is a vigilant chaperone to Sadie
Jesse Edwards (“Uncle Jesse”)
A former slave who lives in an abandoned farmhouse
on Saint Aug’s campus until he dies. Uncle Jesse delivers the campus
mail and is like part of the Delany family.
Booker T. Washington (1856?
An influential and controversial black leader and
founder of the Tuskegee Institute for black students in Alabama.
Washington believes blacks will succeed through education, not through
political agitation. He capitulates to southern whites’ demand for
“separate but equal” laws, feeling blacks should rely only on themselves.
Sadie takes him on tours of her school district in North Carolina.
W. E. B. Du Bois (1868–1963)
A great intellectual figure and editor of The
, the NAACP’s magazine.
is a good-looking man with a mustache and intelligent eyes. Some
think his approach is too fast and threatening. He always stays
with Lemuel Delany and his wife when he visits Raleigh.
Paul Robeson (1898–1976)
A world-famous actor, scholar, and political activist.
During the Cold War, Robeson is attacked for defending the Soviet
Union, and his political beliefs destroy his career. He is an old
friend of Bessie’s, and Sadie and her mother see him perform Othello