Born into a relatively privileged family, Geraldyne Pierce Zimmerman earned a reputation as a maverick in her life-long home of Orangeburg, South Carolina, a semi-rural 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. She was a woman far ahead of her time.
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, <i>Ahead of Her Time in Yesteryear</i> is an important contribution to African American and women’s studies, as well as a fascinating biography for any reader interested in a new perspective on small town black culture in the Jim Crow South.
Kibibi V. Mack-Shelton held the former Tyler and Alice Haynes Endowed Chair of American Studies at the University of Richmond. She currently teaches at the University of Maryland Baltimore County and is author and editor of numerous scholarly publications, including <i>Parlor Ladies and Ebony Drudges: African American Women, Class, and Work in a South Carolina Community and History And Women, Culture And Faith: Selected Writings Of Elizabeth Fox-Genovese, Volume 2</i>.