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BEFORE BARACK:: My Life Among White FolksThe Series

The Writer

Prof. Derrick A. Bell (6 Nov 1930-5 Oct 2011), fierce civil rights activist, celebrated author, and Harvard Law School's first tenured Black law professor, writing about his protege of nearly 40 years:


"Bernestine Singley writes without restraint or regret about her life as a black woman in a constraining white world.


"Had her powerful work come to life in the turbulent civil rights era of the 1960s, publishers and readers would hail her as a more sharply worded James Baldwin. And alas, if Baldwin were writing today, his rejection letters would include the hand-written addenda that accompany hers: 'Exceptionally gifted writer…compelling story…wonderful pace…Unfortunately, we don't see a market for this.'


"Truth in racial presentation, though, is not time sensitive. As with a fine cognac, Singley's expressions bring the warming satisfaction of prophetic understanding."

The Books

Volume 1 Assuming the Position

I could never understand why Ma wasn't angry with white people. She didn't look up to or bow down to them. They never bent her out of shape. They were white and that was that. I felt like I needed to be mad for her, pissed off on her behalf, her offspring full of smoldering resentment, bent on revenge in racially segregated Charlotte, NC.

Volume 2 Land of the White People

I was a hopeful raisin in a Wisconsin pot of rice. Eventually, it drove me mad.

Volume 3 One Thousand Southern White Men

Toe-to-toe and eye-to-eye, in suffocating heat, surrounded by people who called themselves Florida "crackers," I learned how to become a Master of the Universe alongside--actually, often way ahead of--them.

Volume 4 Stomping on Thin Ice

Boston was brutally cold, viciously rude, and violently racist. "Forced busing" was just its latest excuse.

Volume 5 Playing Chess with Monkeys

In Chicago, Atlanta, Dallas, Boston, New Orleans, Charlotte, Tallahassee and everywhere else across the US, white supremacy still bitterly divides...until it just flat out kills.

We don't have to let it stay that way.

Volume 6 Blood Work

I grew up a poor girl among bourgeois black folks, most of whom I couldn't stand. Learning to put up with them is why I can be friends with white folks.