About the book
Through 24 narratives, How We Got Over captures Black life in compelling accounts of the writers from childhood and teen years, as they prepare to enter the next phase of their lives in a world for which their upbringing may or may not have prepared them.
Born Black and in the middle of the 20th century, they share raw and unfiltered stories, recounting typical racial, social, and economic inequities, injustices, and challenges of the time that Blacks all over the South faced. The storytellers share how they dealt with the challenges. The narratives collectively cover a wide range of childhood stories of despair and triumph, ranging from the resulting fear and trauma of witnessing as young grade schoolers a lynched body hanging from a tree at the nearby community center to discovering, by joining the school band, one’s propensity for music.
Further, the damage to self-esteem is seen throughout the narratives from being scoffed for unknowingly sitting in the wrong seat on the city bus to the abhorrence of knowingly having to settle for outdated textbooks from the white school.
Despite the disappointments and struggles, contributors also share how they survived and, in some cases, thrived in the environment. The stories consistently convey the joy and love that contributed to their successes at the time and later in life. They remain hopeful to this day. Their narratives are universal and reflect the human condition.
IN THE MEDIA
ABOUT THE EDITORS
Dr. Helen Benjamin and Jean Nash Johnson served as editor and coeditor, respectively, for How We Got Over. Both have strong backgrounds in writing and enjoy the writing process as well as working with other writers.
Dr. Benjamin holds a bachelor’s degree in English from Bishop College, and master’s (education) and doctoral degrees (English with a concentration in rhetoric) from Texas Woman’s University, which recognized her as Distinguished Alumna in 2017. In 2019, the American Association of Community Colleges honored her with its Leadership Award in recognition of her contributions to the community college field. Her publications include Harvest from the Vineyard: Lessons Learned from the Vineyard Symposiums (co-author) and The Chocolate Truth: An Anthology of Perspectives from Community College CEOs (co-editor and contributor).
Jean Nash Johnson’s award-winning journalism career as a daily newspaper features writer, news and features editor and columnist spans almost three decades. With her Southern Black upbringing firmly rooted and an eye for culture, trends and lifestyles issues, Jean sought after unforeseen storylines and untold angles with a keen understanding of communities of color. She began first in Houston out of college as a cub reporter for The Houston Chronicle, and ultimately as a veteran staffer for The Dallas Morning News. In between her two newspaper periods, Jean served as staff assistant to Sen. Russell B. Long in Washington D.C. On behalf of the senator, she worked as a liaison between U.S. education and housing agencies and Louisiana government counterparts to champion federal funding needs in her home state.
Set in Alexandria, Louisiana, the personal stories of these 1968 graduates of Peabody High School go beyond the traditional, macro viewpoints of African American life that we assume was the typical African American experience in the American South. Instead, they provide us a micro lens into the daily lives of African Americans, who in spite of growing up in a segregated and hostile environment, lived lives of love and success.
W. MARVIN DULANEY
ASSOCIATE PROFESSOR OF HISTORY EMERITUS
UNIVERSITY OF TEXAS, ARLINGTON