The Best of Enemies: Race and Redemption in the New South

Davidson, Osha Gray
Date Written:  2007-08-27
Publisher:  University of North Carolina Press
Year Published:  2007
Pages:  336pp   ISBN:  978-0807858691
Resource Type:  Book
Cx Number:  CX20606

The story of how C.P. Ellis, a member of the Ku Klux Klan, and Ann Atwater, an African American civil rights activist, overcame racial divisions to forge a strong friendship.



Claiborne Paul Ellis, known to all as "C.P.", grew up in the "poor white" section of Durham, North Carolina, just north of the railroad tracks that marked the boundary between the white and black neighborhoods. Surrounded by poverty and affected early by a pervasive racism, C.P. devoured the tales his father told him of the secret, all-white society that would save Dixie, and as a young man he joined the Ku Klux Klan. In 1955, Ann Atwater was employed as a domestic servant when the ripples from the Montgomery bus boycotts hit Durham. Incensed by a racist remark made by her employer, Ann quit her job to join the civil rights fight. During the 1960s, as the country struggled with the explosive issues of race and class, Ann met C.P. on opposite sides of the public school integration issue. Their encounters were charged with hatred and suspicion. Gradually, though, Ann and C.P. each came to see how the other had been exploited by the South's rigid power structure, and they forged a friendship that even today flourishes against a background of renewed bigotry. In our racially divisive times, Osha Gray Davidson gives us a vivid portrait of a friendship that defied all odds. And with characteristic skill and elan he probes one of the most crucial concerns at the heart of our culture: how and why race is a potentially destructive force. The Best of Enemies weaves rich history with an inspiring personal saga to depict the triumph of the human spirit over the tragic past.

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