George Dawson became an instant celebrity when he enrolled in an adult literacy class at the age of 98 to learn to read. Born in 1898 in the midst of the Jim Crow South, Dawson never had a chance to go to school or learn to read when he was young. He worked on his family's farm and then moved on to work on other farms, on a levee, on the railroads, and at the plant on a dairy farm.
When Richard Glaubman, an elementary school teacher in Seattle, read about Mr. Dawson in the newspaper, he decided to contact him and see if he would tell his life story.
The product of this partnership is the deeply moving story of an African American man's life throughout the entire 20th Century. Dawson had a wonderful attitude, and you feel like he's sitting there with you telling you his story.
Parts of the book were so heartbreaking that I was crying tears of frustration at the injustices he had to endure, but he would follow the story with a simple, "It didn't bother me too much."
This biography should be required reading for all U.S. History classes. It brings the world of African Americans during segregation to life in a very personal way. It also shows how hard it is to live life without knowing how to read. Dawson was repeatedly taken advantage of as a result of his race and inability to read (something he always tried to keep to himself).
This is one of my favorite passages from the book. A man has just come to Mr. Dawson's door with a flier for literacy classes.
I shook his hand and told him, "I will be coming to school!"
My turn had come. My first day of school was January 4, 1996. I was ninety-eight years old and I'm still going. Except for three funerals, I've gone to school every day for three years. School starts at nine. I can't wait and I'm up by five-thirty to make my lunch, pack my books, and go over my schoolwork. Since I started school, I'm always early. I haven't ever been late.
Stop reading this post and go read this book!
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