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Best of Enemies

4.09 of 5 stars 4.09  ·  rating details  ·  88 ratings  ·  21 reviews
In a vivid portrait of a relationship that defied all odds in 1960s North Carolina, Davidson tells how C.P. Ellis (a poor white member of the KKK) and Ann Atwater (a poor black civil rights activist) went from being each other's worst and most hostile enemies to forming an incredible, long-lasting friendship. By placing this very personal story into broader context, Davids ...more
Paperback, 352 pages
Published August 27th 2007 by The University of North Carolina Press (first published 1996)
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Osha Gray Davidson
I sympathize with readers who said it was slow reading, and if it's any consolation, it was far slower to write.
David Ward
The Best of Enemies: Race and Redemption in the New South by Osha Gray Davidson (Scribner 1996) (305.800). This book has a distinctly National Public Radio flavoring to it. It's the story of how blacks overcame the status-quo Jim Crow South in the 1960's and 1970's in Durham, North Carolina. It follows two community organizers as they worked to improve the lot of their constituents: Ann Atwater was a poor uneducated black single parent who rose to a position of leadership among the poor blacks o ...more
Dan
A great, readable history of the civil rights movement in Durham, North Carolina, focused particularly on the human experiences of two prominent community organizers of the lower class: one, a particularly aggressive proponent for the rights of poor blacks named Ann Atwater; the other, C.P. Ellis, a poor white supremacist and leader of the local Ku Klux Klan. When these two are brought together to take on the challenge of school desegregation some incredible human change takes place. I would rec ...more
Catherine
Excellent social history telling the story of transformation of a poor white leader of the KKK into a man who realizes that black people are human beings with the same need for respect and economic opportunity. He was appointed to a public school integration project with Ann Atwater, a black community organizer. Both started out being suspicious and hateful but they became friends and allies as they realized that both groups of people--poor whites and blacks--had been exploited by the South's ri ...more
Jihemmin
I think I grew up thinking that Brown vs. The Board of Education was a magic wand. All of a sudden, schools were desegregated. Obviously, that is not the case, and this book gives a powerful portrait of an important window of time when that threshold had to be crossed. Of course I'm partial to Durham, but this story is super compelling. Osha is a journalist who does an exquisite job of making history come alive through just enough fictional detail to give it immediacy and a sense of being there. ...more
Kyla
Despite my high rating, I'm not necessarily recommending this book to you. It is a history of the city I'm living in and filled in the blanks - by telling the story of a local black activist and a Klu Klux Klan member who cooperated and became friends - that I had been wondering about. An excellent overview of how this town was once a Black powerhouse, vibrant and bustling and today struggles along, poor and scrappy. It helped me understand where I live in a deep way. Vital reading if you plan t ...more
Heidi
There is a lot of historical background along with the story of Ann Atwater and CP Ellis, but I thought it was necessary for those of us who didn't live in this time period and thought integration "just happened." Davidson also presented some nice parallels in the turning points in Durham, Ellis' life, and Atwater's life.

The last couple of chapters felt overly romanticized, but it's a story I think should be told, so I ignored the dramatization.

I recommend it for those who want to understand t
...more
Lisa Ramey
Not a quick read but learned a lot from this book. For friends in Atlanta, a play based on this book is showing at the Rialto Theater / Theatrical Outlet on Luckie Street - runs through mid or end of Feb. I wanted to read it before we went to see the play.
Bekah
I absolutely loved this book. Perhaps it is because my partner is coordinating a dialogue process in our city, but this book was one of my favorites. I first read about it in another book, "Being Wrong: Adventures in the Margin of Error" and I am so glad I tracked it down.

I learned so much about the civil rights movement, and have a much better sense of the long-standing class issues within the black community. i saw so many parallels to current issues and relationships.

Janice
This book should be called, "The history of race relations in Durham, North Carolina with a little bit about the friendship between two people." I am not saying that I didn't find all of the history interesting (my favorite author of all time is David McCoullough) but just like the long tedious process it took for blacks to get some basic human rights concessions in Durham, this book definitely felt a long and tedious.
Kvinroot
I acquired this book for UNC Press. It's a very readable history of race relations in Durham--and in the South in general. The book follows the true story of a former KKK Grand Wizard in Durham who befriended a militant black Civil Rights leader. The book was chosen as the Duke Freshman Class Required Summer Reading book and is a must-read for anyone interested in the history of the Civil Rights movement in Durham.
Laura
What an omnibus of understanding for all sides of the Civil Rights Movement. The author did an excellent job of looking objectively at the complicated race issues of Durham, NC, and still managed to be entertaining. I also have a new respect for the black, women leaders of the Civil Rights Movement - a story I've never heard.
Patricia
One of the best, most touching histories of Durham and the Civil Rights Movement that has ever been written. A must-read for Durham locals and transplants as well as anyone with an interest in history. If, like me, you didn't live through this era, the story of C.P. and Ann is enlightening in many ways.
Jessica
such an enlightening read - the true story of a civil rights activist and former klan leader forced to work together to better race relations in durham, nc. this book is very honest about some of the historical details of race relations & politics.
Sarah
This book was one of Duke's summer reading selections. It paints a real picture of what life was like during integration and what exactly society had to overcome.
Carolyn
This is a great book but, as much as I appreciated all the historical context provided, I wanted more about the two main characters and their friendship.
Anne
Sep 14, 2007 Anne rated it 4 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: residents of durham
A fascinating look at the history of race relations in North Carolina, told via the relationship of two people.
Thaddaeus
Really excellent historical outlay of Durham's history as well as a profile of Ann Atwater and CP Ellis.
Erika Rasmussen
Oct 11, 2007 Erika Rasmussen marked it as to-read
my father worked for the guy in this book (claiborne ellis) when my dad was a teen! yikes!
Katy
This is a good story...but just listen to our show about it!
Terry Earley
Aug 05, 2012 Terry Earley marked it as to-read
Mentioned in the book "Being Wrong" by Kathryn Schultz.
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