Colored People: A Memoir
A re-creation of what it was like to grow up in the hill town of Piedmont, West Virginia, in the 1950s and 1960s. Recalling an age at which the town ... Show synopsis A re-creation of what it was like to grow up in the hill town of Piedmont, West Virginia, in the 1950s and 1960s. Recalling an age at which the town and people represented his known universe, Gates describes the clannish pride of the family and the sense of place that characterized Piedmont, with its beautiful countryside, its paper mill, whose sulphurous fumes permeated the air but brought the town its prosperity, and the social event of the year, the annual mill picnic. The young Gates's consciousness takes in "colored people" in a time when segregation was still influential. He tells of huge Sunday meals, the ingenious hairdressing methods needed for the much-prized "good hair", the traumas of teenage love and the free and easy sexual relations that provided the Piedmont people with unending gossip. Integrated education came to Piedmont, but cross-racial dating was still taboo. Gates's brother's scholarly career suffered because of the colour bar. A coloured person appearing on television was still an event. But it was through the window of television that the story of the civil rights movement came to Piedmont, and eventually things changed - Gates succeeded in becoming a scholar, and his mother triumphed when she bought the house where she had once laboured as a cleaning woman. Full of detailed description and humour, this account combines the celebration of a community, an epic time in the history of a race and a boy's coming of age.