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Multicolored Memories of a Black Southern Girl

Multicolored Memories of a Black Southern Girl

Copyright Date: 2001
Edition: 1
Pages: 184
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  • Book Info
    Multicolored Memories of a Black Southern Girl
    Book Description:

    A telling memoir by an exciting new voice,Multicolored Memories of a Black Southern Girlexplores journalist Kitty Oliver's coming of age as she makes the crossing from an all-black to a predominantly white world.

    Born and raised in an all-black area of Jacksonville, Florida, Oliver was one of the first African American freshmen to enter the University of Florida. Though she chronicles the strains of her transition from Jim Crow to desegregation, this book is much more than a memoir of the turbulent sixties. It is an upbeat journal of self-discovery in the aftermath of that decade, a look at one woman's coming to terms with living an integrated life in America. With humor, poignancy, and lyrical language (reminiscent at times of another Florida writer, Zora Neale Hurston), Oliver shares her passage from the "old world" to the new -- an immigrant's journey indicative of the American experience.

    Blending past and present, she searches for roots from the Gullah or "Geechee" culture of South Carolina to the urban streets of northern Florida to the multicultural mix of South Florida's diverse ethnic cultures, serving up family stories with large helpings of southern "folktalk," food, and music along the way.

    eISBN: 978-0-8131-4758-1
    Subjects: History, Sociology

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-vi)
    (pp. vii-viii)
    Margaret Ripley Wolfe
    (pp. ix-x)

      (pp. 3-22)

      For as long as I can remember, I have had a preference for traveling by train because the experience of the journey is more prolonged. Schedules are only estimates; hours expand. There is plenty of time to weigh and mull over one’s life. Once the coach lurches forward and the engine accelerates to top speed, a familiar crosscurrent of sensations kicks in. I know I am in transit, headed somewhere, but at the same time I feel suspended. The world is moving—without me. For amusement I play “camera,” framing wide shots in the window and sometimes zooming in on...

      (pp. 23-34)

      The two-year-old wears a ruffled sundress that drapes daintily over her shoulders. A ribbonned braid juts out from her head like a pointed finger. This black-and-white closeup is the only photograph that exists of me between infancy and high school graduation. It is the only physical evidence I have that I was in fact not born full-figured and five-foot-three. Of course, my mother is quick to remind me, it is not the only childhood photo that was taken. The one at five months old with tight black curls and chipmunk cheeks is still around. The satiated look, like a “fat...

      (pp. 35-46)

      “You’ve got hair like your daddy,” Mama often said. “Soft as tissue paper. All you have to do is dampen a brush with water and slide it on through.” And sure enough, the curls unknotted like limber dancers and twirled into two ponytails. I primped in the mirror later, feeling for the hair lying flat now at the nape of my neck—we called it “the kitchen.” And I actually believed that I was blessed to have a father who at least gave me “good” hair—until it curled up tightly again the next day. Sometimes the comb raked pain...

      (pp. 47-57)

      “All aboard!” The announcer’s voice boomed through the Greyhound bus station that August morning in 1965 as Mama and I settled into a corner of one of the long, wooden benches to wait. At our feet sat the three-piece set of red Samsonite luggage—her graduation gift to me for my first journey away from home. A few nights before, she had helped me empty the closet of the last of my winter clothes and tried to stuff them into the steamer trunk we shipped ahead to the University of Florida. But she gave up on her futile attempt at...

      (pp. 58-74)

      I remember my first interracial encounter. I was sixteen and content to overeat and watch soap operas all day, when a girlfriend jogged me out of my routine to walk a few blocks to the nearby neighborhood recreation center. A notice on the bulletin board called for teenagers to sign up for various summer activities, including helping with a two-week black voter-registration drive sponsored by the national office of the YMCA. It sounded too much like work to me, but then we saw the clincher—some college students from out of state were coming in for the project. Boys! With...

      (pp. 75-96)

      I am an hour early for a 9:00 a.m. committee meeting this cool spring morning, and the university and the town are already wide awake. Parking in the guest garage, I head out on foot to locate the right building for my appointment. Aging brick buildings I remember as dotting open spaces of lawn on Florida’s largest campus are still standing, but they are now shoulder-to-shoulder with strange ones of concrete, metal, and glass that have been jammed in. Distracted, I do not notice until as if out of nowhere a tidal wave of white students arises and surges right...


      (pp. 99-108)

      The party was a Friday night dinner with some new college friends. “Nothing special. We’ll just whip up a main dish we can all taste,” the hosts said. People on their guest list came from places I had only heard of on television and in the movies, or had occasionally read about in books: Belgium, New Delhi, Caracas, Stockholm, as well as other parts of the United States. Most of the faces were new to me. We all had been instructed to bring something to share. I was almost twenty-one at the time, newly married, and the wedding ring my...

      (pp. 109-124)

      I was lost in the early evening stupor that usually descends upon me during one of my mother’s visits from Jacksonville. For her, Florida’s “Mason-Dixon line” cuts somewhere just below the grey-hound dog track in Daytona Beach, and she crosses that line only a few times a year. The northern and southern parts of the state are separated by a cultural gulf as formidable as a mountain range. Traffic, crime, and political mayhem seem to increase with the trip south, but so does the action of big-city life. She expects to leave monotony for excitement when she travels here to...

      (pp. 125-133)

      The meeting was in one of those wide, boxy condominium recreation halls where neighbors gather to quibble over bridge games or debate the merits of painting walls sand-colored or beige. But the hosts for this party had brightened up the place by tying symbolic clusters of black, white, yellow, and red balloons to some of the folding chairs circling the room. Middle Eastern women with waist-length ebony hair and short silk dresses comforted children falling asleep in their fathers’ arms. West Indian voices lilted, and laughter bubbled thick and saucy from two large brown-skinned women huddled near the door. A...

      (pp. 134-150)

      The last few stragglers jostled me awake, lugging their pillows and suitcases, avoiding eye contact as if doing penance for causing the half-hour delay. I shifted shoulders and checked the lighted dial on the watch of the woman sitting across from me. 5:30 a.m. We were losing time just standing still. Once they all found seats, the charter bus groaned and belched smoke as it pulled onto the highway out of Fort Lauderdale for the four-hour ride. Just twenty black women, including me, on an overnight escape to Zoraville.

      That is the name I have given the annual Zora Neale...

      (pp. 151-162)

      The rust brown deer perpetually grazes in sparse grass on a hill-top, attentive against a clear beige sky. The front legs, thin and fragile, are planted firmly on the ground, but the hind legs are bent with the impulse to run. Actually, it is just a three-by-six-foot rug stitched with washable acrylic yarn, suitable for any indoor living space. But I could never bring myself to lay it on a floor. Its wintery scene is too pleasantly diametrical to my tropical surroundings in South Florida, the texture too fragile to be trampled upon. The piece is one of those few...

      (pp. 163-173)

      The vacation was a lark—two midlife single women seeing some of the country by car for the first time. Traveling thirty-three hundred miles in eleven days, we wandered through small towns and strange cities, awakening more than memories. Some of the scenes could have been shot on a movie sound stage. They had all the elements. Trees blushed crimson and gold ahead of us against the backdrop of a cloudless fall sky. White houses and platted farms sprawled like a miniature set in the valleys below. Our silver convertible circled the mountains of Virginia and Pennsylvania, and even though...