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The First to Speak: A Woman of Color Inside the White House.

Johnetta B. Cole may be Black America's favorite president. Her popularity as president of Spelman College (the all-women's college in Atlanta) has only been enhanced by her elegant, but "just plain folk," manner that has endeared her to students, faculty, alumni, business and political leaders alike. It is this familial tone that Cole brings to her book, Conversations: Straight Talk With America's Sister President

Disturbed by the melancholy state of Black America, Sister Prez (an affectionate term used by students and alumni) writes, "This book is not intended as a monologue, nor do I wish to preach at African-American women." Her intention is to talk with black women about the state of the world, their world and their role in it. if others - non-African-Americans and men - tune in, so much the better.

An anthropologist, Cole uses her background and personal experiences - growing up in a well-to-do Jacksonville, Fla., family, the daughter of a college professor, the granddaughter of the founder of the Afro-American Life Insurance Co., and the former wife of a white college professor she met while both were students at Northwestern University - to contrast the racism and sexism even a life of privilege could not shelter her from. Cole postulates that as long as black women live under these conditions and issues, the demise of the African-American community will continue. For it is the African-centered woman, "the giant on whose shoulders all of us stand," who will ensure the survival and quality of black life in America.

Conversations is intended to spark dialogue, if not debate, among black people. Unfortunately, it will probably lead to discourse only among the black intelligentsia, primarily on the issues of sexism and the subordinate status of black women in the world. While Cole's intention is not to preach, she comes across as a well-read educator full of mother wit to share with her students.

She provides no definitive action plan but asks the reader to begin an inner analysis, then write her own conclusion on how to solve Black America's ills, and share it with others. This noble goal affirms black women's contributions to the past and to the future.
COPYRIGHT 1993 Earl G. Graves Publishing Co., Inc.
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Copyright 1993, Gale Group. All rights reserved. Gale Group is a Thomson Corporation Company.

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Author:Lopresti, Jean
Publication:Black Enterprise
Article Type:Book Review
Date:Nov 1, 1993
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