Born a generation after the Civil War, sisters A. Elizabeth “Bessie” and Sarah Louise “Sadie” Delany, co-authored an award-winning memoir in 1993 at the ages of 101 and 104, respectively. The book, translated into six different languages, sold more than five million copies. The book went on to inspire a CBS television film in 1999 and several plays, including the 1995 Broadway play, Having Our Say: The Delany Sisters First 100 Years, which will be produced by the North Carolina Theatre from November 8 through 17, 2019.
The Delany sisters where raised on the campus of St. Augustine’s University, where their father, Henry Beard Delany, was appointed the first African American Bishop of the Episcopal Church and their mother Nannie Delany was a teacher and an administrator the college. The sisters were successful career women and civil rights pioneers who survived encounters with racism and sexism in different ways, with the support of each other and their family. The sisters set their sights high, with both earning advanced college degrees at a time when this was very rare for women, especially women of color. Both were successful in their professions from the 1920s until retirement.
In the play, Having Our Say: The Delany Sisters First 100 Years, Sadie and Bessie Delany share stories of their triumph over Jim Crow, life in New York during the Harlem Renaissance, and the birth of their activism in the feminists and civil rights movement. In every moment of their lives, the Delany sisters held on to the foundation of their faith, fortitude, and the strength of their family bond.