Descendants of a prominent slaveholding family, Elizabeth, Grace, and Katharine Lumpkin grew up in a culture of white supremacy. But while Elizabeth remained a lifelong believer, her younger sisters chose vastly different lives. National Humanities Award–winning historian Jacquelyn Dowd Hall follows the divergent paths of the Lumpkin sisters.
One strength of Hall’s work is her nuanced portrayal of the Jim Crow South, as neither 'solid' nor walled off from social currents roiling the nation ... Hall is a herculean researcher whose sources include security files she sued the Department of Justice to access. Her interviews with the elderly Lumpkins, and reflections on why and how she tracked the sisters over decades, lend an appealing journalistic and personal touch to what might otherwise be an unleavened diet of detailed scholarship. She is forthright about what she lacks ... To Hall’s great credit, she sticks to the material she’s doggedly uncovered, while giving it context ... It’s hard, however, for Hall to balance this relative dearth of private detail on the Lumpkins with her exhaustive research on their public careers. The narrative brims with plot and theme, but the central characters don’t come fully alive, instead appearing almost Zelig-like in the many great dramas of the 20th century ... In the end, the sisters remain intimate strangers to the reader as well, and perhaps that’s fitting.
... an intelligent, scholarly assessment of three sisters born into a life of white privilege in late-nineteenth-century Georgia ... Hall’s biographical chronicle will appeal and be of value to readers interested in the Reconstruction, women’s history, and individuals involved in the evolution of twentieth-century social and cultural change movements.
... a sweeping, richly detailed intellectual and political history of America from the 1920s to the 1980s, an absorbing narrative based on impressive scholarship ... Sharply etched biographical portraits focus a compelling history.