Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Sheryll Cashin's "The Agitator's Daughter"

Sheryll Cashin, professor of law at Georgetown University, writes about race relations and inequality in America. Her book The Failures of Integration was an Editors' Choice in the New York Times Book Review, and was a finalist for the 2005 Hurston/Wright Legacy Award for non-fiction.

She applied “Page 99 Test” to her new book, The Agitator's Daughter: A Memoir of Four Generations of One Extraordinary African-American Family, and reported the following:
Page 99 of my book is the introduction to chapter 9, entitled Manhood. The first two sentences read: "It made sense for a second generation of Cashins to attend Fisk University. As my father and uncle were approaching their college years, most of the adults in their lives considered Fisk to be first among historically black colleges, excepting those who went to Morehouse, Tuskegee, Howard, or wherever educated Negroes had vested their bragging rights."

The book tells the story of how the twin values of political activism and academic excellence were passed down through four generations of my family. From the time I was arrested at the age of four months, along with my mother as she sat-in at a lunch counter, until the first time I entered a voting booth at age 18 and pulled the lever beside my own name, my life was shaped by the activism of my parents. I had an incredible childhood and my parents inculcated values in me that I felt were worth sharing. Dad put his heart, soul, and most of his money into his causes. He was a dentist by profession but agitation was his true calling. He founded a black-led third party in Alabama during the height of George Wallace's hegemony and succeeded in transforming "white supremacy" politics in the keystone state of massive resistance. But by the time I was 18 he was broke and I had to figure out how to pay for college on my own. As a teenager I seethed with anger about his priorities. As I approached middle age and Dad approached his 80s, I simply wanted to understand the origins of his altruism and share my journey in a book that might motivate others.
Read an excerpt from The Agitator's Daughter; learn more the book at the publisher's website and more about the author at her Georgetown Law webpage.

--Marshal Zeringue