At the Elbows of My Elders

At the Elbows of My Elders

One Family's Journey Toward Civil Rights

By: Gail Milissa Grant

Publication date: October 2010
SKU: 9781883982669
Subject: Non-Fiction

The Grant family is emblematic of many black middle-class and blue-collar people who, beginning at the turn of the twentieth century, went to school, paid their dues, and forced America to face its prejudices. Through one act of courage after another, they set in motion a social movement without end.

Title information

While America is familiar with the modern civil rights movement begun in the 1950s, little has been published about black families throughout the country who had been fighting segregation in their local communities for decades. Their everyday battles built the foundation for the more publicized crusade to follow. In this memoir, Gail Milissa Grant draws back the curtain on those times and presents touching vignettes of a life most Americans know nothing about. She recounts the battles fought by her father, David M. Grant, a lawyer and civil rights activist in St. Louis, and describes the challenges she faced in navigating her way through institutions marked by racial prejudice. The book also illuminates the culture of middle-class black families in those difficult times. Grant details how her family built a prosperous life through the operation of a funeral home, the practice of chiropody (podiatry), and work on the railroad and on pleasure boats that plied the Great Lakes and the Mississippi River. During the 1950s the Grant family home on the south side of St. Louis provided a refuge for many celebrated African American entertainers and political leaders who were refused accommodations by the major hotels. St. Louis was still in the grips of Jim Crow laws, which divided blacks from whites—in schooling, housing, and most public facilities. The black community chafed under these conditions, but it also built its own institutions while fighting against the restrictions that barred blacks from full participation in society. It is the tension between what they could and could not do for themselves that energizes this memoir. The Grant family is emblematic of many black middle-class and blue-collar people who, beginning at the turn of the twentieth century, went to school, paid their dues, and forced America to face its prejudices. Through one act of courage after another, they set in motion a social movement without end.

Pages: 272
Language: English
Publisher: Missouri History Museum
Edition: 1st
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Gail Milissa Grant

Gail Milissa Grant was born in St. Louis, Missouri, at the cusp of the civil rights movement of the 1950s. She is the daughter of Mildred and David M. Grant, a prominent civil rights attorney and activist. Grant received her B.A. in Art History and Archaeology from Washington University in St. Louis in 1972. In 1974, she earned an M.A. in Art History from Howard University in Washington, D.C., where she would later become an assistant professor of art and architectural history. She served as a foreign service officer with the U.S. Information Agency and State Department for more than 20 years, managing international cultural and educational exchange programs overseas. During her tenure, she was assigned to Norway, France, and Brazil. She also did extensive international press advance work for Presidents Reagan, Bush, and Clinton. Currently, she is a writer and public speaker based in Rome, Italy, where she lives with her husband, set designer Gaetano Castelli. At the Elbows of My Elders: One Family’s Journey Toward Civil Rights is her first book.

Benjamin Franklin Award Winner

TOP HONORS FROM THE BENJAMIN FRANKLIN BOOK OF THE YEAR 2009 AWARDS

At the Elbows of My Elders won first prize at the Benjamin Franklin Book of the Year awards ceremony in its category (autobiography/memoir) on May 28, 2009 at the Roosevelt Hotel in New York City. The author was on hand to receive the award on behalf of the publisher, the Missouri History Museum.

Named in honor of America's most cherished publisher/printer, the Benjamin Franklin Awards™ recognize excellence in independent publishing. Publications, grouped by genre are judged on editorial and design merit by top practitioners in each field.