Ahead of Her Time in Yesteryear
Geraldyne Pierce Zimmerman Comes of Age in a Southern African American Family
Born into a relatively privileged family, Geraldyne Pierce Zimmerman earned a reputation as a maverick in her lifelong home of Orangeburg, South Carolina, a semirural community where race and class were very much governed by the Jim Crow laws. Educated at Nashville’s Fisk University, Zimmerman returned to Orangeburg to teach school, serve her community, and champion equal rights for African Americans and women.
Kibibi V. Mack-Shelton offers a vivid portrayal of the kind of black family seldom recognized for its role in the development of the African American community after the Civil War. At a time when “separate but equal” usually meant suffering and injustice for the black community, South Carolina families such as the Tatnalls, Pierces, and Zimmermans achieved a level of financial and social success rivaling that of many white families.
Drawing heavily on the oral accounts of Geraldyne Pierce Zimmerman, Mack-Shelton draws the reader into the lives of the African American elite of the early twentieth century. Her captivating narrative style brings to life many complicated topics: how skin color affected interracial interactions and class distinctions within the black community itself, the role of education for women and for African Americans in general, and the ways in which cultural ideas about family and community are simultaneously preserved and transformed over the span of generations.
Refreshing and engaging, Ahead of Her Time in Yesteryear is a fascinating biography for any reader interested in a new perspective on small-town black culture in the Jim Crow South.