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27 December 2019 ALL THE DAYS PAST, ALL THE DAYS TO COME by Mildred D. Taylor, Viking, January 2020, 496p., ISBN: 978-0-399-25730-8


“I heard screaming and bullwhips cracking.

How long? How long?”

-- Neil Young, “Southern Man” (1970)


“‘and on interstate buses,’ Mama continued, ‘colored folks now can sit where they want--’

‘Yeah, federal government finally stood up and enforced their own laws like they should’ve been doing for years.’

‘Well, they’re doing it now.’

‘’Bout time,’ said Uncle Hammer, not totally conceding the point. ‘ But what happened to that voter registration drive Cassie was in? Still can’t vote down here. Look what happened to Great Faith. Still got the same laws in place, still got the same signs, staring us in the face, still got the same old rednecks running things. I don’t see these Mississippi white folks about to change voting laws or anything else anytime soon. Remember how colored folks used to have to qualify to vote? By guessing how many jelly beans were in a jar and all sorts of fool nonsense like that!’ Uncle Hammer waved his hand in disgust. ‘That’s about how much they think of us. It’ll be a cold day in hell before these white folks change around here.’

Mama smiles at Uncle Hammer. ‘Well, that cold day could be coming sooner than you think, Hammer.’

Uncle Hammer was unbending. ‘Can’t see it.’

‘Little changes, Hammer,’ Mama reminded him. ‘Little changes--in the end, they become big ones. Everybody knew Mississippi would be the last state to go down in this fight. Alabama and Mississippi. The hardest-line states in the country. Be patient, Hammer. Be patient.’

Uncle Hammer snorted. ‘Been patient long enough. Three hundred and more years of patient.’

Papa agreed with him. ‘Change ain’t hardy coming here, Mary, not in our lifetime, least not mine. All we can do is hold on to what we’ve got, hold on to this land. That’s what we fight for.’

‘But how we gonna do that, son, if nobody’s here?’

All eyes turned to Big Ma. She looked around the table at the boys and me, and I felt weighed down by my guilt.”


By time Cassie Logan has reached the age of twenty, which is where this book begins, she’s lived through the Great Depression, most of World War II, and a young lifetime of racism in Mississippi. It’s not surprising to learn that Cassie is one of many among her generation of black peers who head north and are thereafter torn between visiting family and friends in Mississippi and trying to stay as far away as possible. 


ALL THE DAYS PAST, ALL THE DAYS TO COME marks the end of an era. 45 years after the publication of SONG OF THE TREES; and 43 years after Mildred Taylor won the Newbery Medal for ROLL OF THUNDER, HEAR MY CRY; Ms. Taylor concludes the story of the Logan family. In all, the six-book saga covers nearly one-hundred years of black lives in America. Several characters in this final book have survived through the entire series, including Big Ma (Caroline) and Wade Jamison.


ALL THE DAYS PAST, ALL THE DAYS TO COME begins in 1944 and concludes shortly after the assassination of Medgar Evers, just a few weeks before the 1963 March on Washington. 


Cassie is persuaded to attend law school, succeeds there, and becomes an attorney. She comes to recognize that racism and segregation exist all across this country. But, as we’re once again shown in this book, Mississippi knows how to perpetrate racism better than anywhere else. Which is why, in response to Big Ma’s concern about who in the family is willing to take over the land, Cassie confides that, 


“I met Big Ma’s look, but I didn’t know what to say to her. I couldn’t tell Big Ma that no way in the world would I ever come back to live in Mississippi, land or no land.”


This final book is significant to me because it spills into my own lifetime, concluding in times I still recall. Growing up in a white community in segregated Long Island, I watched the evening news, and was often disturbed by the televised confrontations of the early Sixties, when Civil Rights activists were set upon with batons, guns, dogs, and tear gas. 


Ms. Taylor vividly portrays many of those events, as some of her characters take part. Meanwhile, Cassie becomes the sole black attorney in a prestigious Boston law firm, a rare black woman attorney anywhere in America in that era. She’s often torn between participating in protests; putting time into her civil rights pro bono work; and toiling hard at her job. 


Having known Cassie Logan all these decades, it’s so exciting to see what becomes of her as an adult. But this book really does mark the conclusion of an era. The only thing sadder than reaching the end of the Logan saga is recognizing that far too many of the unfulfilled promises of 1950s and early-1960s America have still not been realized, more than half a century later. 


Unfortunately, David Logan was right about the changes not coming to pass in his lifetime. I pray that important, still-unresolved racial issues like the failure to achieve fair housing and political schemes to disenfranchise black voters don’t outlive me, too. 


Indeed, how long?


Richie Partington, MLIS

Richie's Picks http://richiespicks.pbworks.com





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