RALEIGH — Funeral services were held Monday morning for Raleigh native Sarah Delany, one of two sisters whose best-selling book chronicled the tumult of their early years. She died last week at the age of 109.
Great-grandniece Brandi Delany spoke at the services. She's a fifth-generation Delany born in Raleigh. She said that not until reading the sisters' book, "Having Our Say: The Delany Sisters' First 100 Years," did she realize that Aunt Sadie, as Sarah came to be called, wasn't just a "sweet aunt who acted far younger than her age."
With the publication of the book, which Sadie and her sister, Dr. Annie Elizabeth "Bessie" Delany wrote with New York Times reporter Amy Hill Hearth, Brandi Delany learned that Aunt Sadie was not just a home economics teacher, she was a pioneer and entrepreneur far ahead of her time.
Sadie Delany grew up with her nine brothers and sisters on the campus of St. Augustine's College, where their father, Henry Beard Delany, was vice president. He was also the first elected black bishop of the Episcopal Church in America. Their mother, Nanny Logan Delany, was also active at the college.
The sisters moved to New York City after college.
There, Bessie became the town's second black woman dentist and Sadie the first black woman home-economics teacher. They befriended everyone who was anyone in the Harlem Renaissance (their brother won the 1925 Congressional primary there), pursued careers instead of husbands, and lived peacefully together, despite their differences. Sadie was more peaceable, like Booker T. Washington, while Bessie was a W.E.B. Du Bois-style militant.
Delany Drive, a street near St. Augustine's connecting Glascock Street and Milburnie Road, is named for the family.
After Bessie died in 1995, Sadie Delany and Amy Hill Hearth wrote "On My Own at 107: Reflections on Life Without Bessie."
Bessie and Sadie lived 200+ combined years.
The sisters' first book sprang from a New York Times article that detailed their spunk and wisdom in 1991. The award-winning memoir was on The New York Times best-seller list for 19 months, sold more than 900,000 copies and has been translated into four languages.
After their memoir was published, they agreed to countless interviews and their memoir was also adapted for the stage in 1995 and has been touring the country for three years.