In Betty Reid Soskin’s 96 years of living, she has been a witness to a grand sweep of American history. When she was born in 1921, the lynching of African-Americans was a national disgrace, minstrel shows were the most popular American form of entertainment, women were looked at suspiciously by many for exercising their right to vote, and most African-Americans in the Deep South could not vote at all. From her great-grandmother, who had been enslaved until she was in her mid-20s, Betty heard stories of slavery and the difficult times for Black Folk that immediately followed. In her lifetime, Betty has seen the nation begin to break down its race and gender biases, watched it nearly split apart in the upheavals of the civil rights and Black Power eras, and, finally, lived long enough to witness both the election of an African-American president and the re-emergence of a militant, racist far right. But far more than being merely a witness, Betty Reid Soskin has been an active participant with so many other Americans in shaping the country as we know it now. The child of Louisiana Creole parents who refused to bow down to Southern discrimination, she was raised in the Black Bay Area community before the great westward migration of World War II. After working in the civilian homefront effort in the war years, she and her husband, Mel Reid, helped break down racial boundaries by moving into a white community east of the Oakland hills. There she raised four children—one openly gay, one developmentally disabled—while working to end the prejudices against the family that existed among many of her neighbors. With Mel, she opened up one of the first Bay Area record stores in Berkeley both owned by African-Americans and dedicated to the distribution of African-American music. Her community organizing activities eventually led her to work as a state legislative aid, helping to plan the innovative Rosie the Riveter National Park in Richmond, California, then to a “second” career at the Rosie Park as the oldest park ranger in the history of the National Park Service. In between, she used her talents as a singer and songwriter to interpret and chronicle the great social upheavals that marked the 1960s. In 2003, Betty displayed a new talent, writing, when she created the popular blog CBreaux Speaks. Now followed by thousands, her blog is a collection of Betty’s sometimes fierce, sometimes gently persuasive, but always brightly honest story that weaves both the wisdom of the ages and the fresh enthusiasm of an always youthful mind into her long journey through an American and African-American life, as well as America’s long struggle to both understand and cleanse its soul. Blending together selections from many of Betty’s hundreds of blog entries with interviews, letters, and speeches collected throughout her long life, Sign My Name to Freedom invites readers into an American life through the words and thoughts of a national treasure who has never stopped looking at herself, the nation, or the world with fresh eyes.
A Zelig’s-eye view of American history: A bit like Zelig (or Forrest Gump without the simple mind), Betty has been a sharp-eyed observer of pivotal moments and movements in U.S. history.
Having Our Say for the 21st century: Like the Delany sisters’ New York Times best-selling classic, Betty’s chronicle is a compelling testament to where we’ve been and where we’re going.
Timely subject: In the era of Black Lives Matter, this book tells a sharply insightful, deeply felt first-person story of one such life, even as it sheds light on the larger African American experience.
Marketing: A media favorite, Betty has appeared on PBS, Today and NPR and numerous other newscasts, talk shows and features, including Tavis Smiley’s show. Tavis wrote the forward to the book.
Betty is the author of the popular blog, CBreaux Speaks, where she discusses her long journey through an American and African American life.
Book endorsement received from Ken Burns.
Features in Hay House e-mails/newsletter, social media channels, ICDI radio, HealYourLife.com.
Hay House social media reach: Hay House (777K followers); Heal Your Life (1.9M followers); Daily Affirmations (883K followers); Daily Meditations (1.4M followers)
Author Website: cbreaux.blogspot.com