“Some men were still holding Pete tight from behind so that he couldn’t even budge. But if Pete knew he was gonna die, the fear had left his face. Though Pete was just a boy, he must of been four to five inches taller than Norris. He just looked down at Norris, looked him in the eye. Most always we was supposed to look down at the ground when a white man was talking, and this seemed to set Norris off even more.”
George Dawson was 101 years old when, together with Richard Glaubman, he agreed to write his autobiography. As a black man, Dawson had experienced much in his life, good and bad, and he was in a unique position to speak about history first hand. When Glaubman first approached him to do the book, Glaubman imagined an angry, bitter account of racism and segregation. What he found in Dawson was the exact opposite.
Dawson’s attitude is one of acceptance. He says that hanging on to bitterness and anger gets in the way of enjoying life, and Dawson thinks that life is so good. He did not get the opportunity to attend school when he was younger, and for most his life, he went without knowing how to read. He was embarrassed about this, and so he kept it a secret. Then one day, when he was 98 years old, a man came to his door to let him know about an adult education program which would change all that. Dawson jumped at the chance, and inspired countless students with his eagerness to learn and his work ethic. Though Dawson passed away at the age of 103, a middle school in Dallas honored him by naming their school after him.
I so enjoyed this book. Dawson is humble and unassuming. And while he doesn’t gloss over the truth of the hardships he endured, his kind and forgiving nature take the forefront here. People often look to centenarians with their questions about life, and I believe that George Dawson’s life offers some concrete answers. This book is appropriate for young adults and anyone willing to sit and listen to the story of an amazing life.
4 stars (out of 5)
Published in 2000