Books for Understanding Race Relations

Chosen by the Association of American University Presses to understand U.S. race relations, Bigmama Didn’t Shop At Woolworth’s by Sunny Nash is listed in the Bibliographic Guide to Black Studies and recommended for Native American collections.
Sunny Nash Inset F.W. Woolworth's
Sunny Nash Inset F.W. Woolworth's
Oct. 2, 2010 - PRLog -- Sunny Nash’s book, Bigmama Didn’t Shop At Woolworth’s (Texas A&M University Press), now being used as a tool in the study of race relations in the United States makes a great gift for all ages.

“Nash's writing makes readers feel they are there, experiencing the characters' anxieties, fears, joys, and hope,” said Rebecca C. Burgee, Pimmit Hills Alternative High School, Falls Church, Virginia. “Young people will learn a lot from this book; it is poignant in its teachings about discrimination.”

Chosen by the Association of American University Presses as one of its essential books for understanding race relations in the United States, Bigmama Didn’t Shop At Woolworth’s by the award-winning author, Sunny Nash, is also listed in the Bibliographic Guide to Black Studies by the Schomburg Center in New York and recommended for Native American collections by the Miami-Dade Public Library System in Florida.

Nash, who now lives in Southern California, has won two California Professional Artist Fellowships through the Arts Council for Long Beach, one in 2003 to honor Bigmama Didn’t Shop At Woolworth’s for its significance to the study of America’s diverse ethic cultures and history. Nash won a second California Professional Artist Fellowships through the Arts Council for Long Beach in 2010 for a book she is currently completing.

A 1977 journalism graduate of Texas A&M University, Sunny Nash eloquently conveys her childhood memories of the 1950s and ‘60s, a time and a place during the holidays not as joyous as the jingling Christmas bells on television street corners. Bigmama Didn’t Shop At Woolworth’s is a book about life, lacing together warm and fuzzy memories of being a kid with the reality of hardship, and exploring many aspects of American and especially small-town, mid-century Texas society.

“I was never hungry or even wondered about where the basic things for living came from,” said Nash. “We just couldn’t afford extras, although my mother always managed somehow to squeeze out infrequent luxuries.”

“Nash's mother was a beautiful, distant woman who would force her daughter to learn willy nilly,” reported Reed Business News. “Because her mother worked, Nash's upbringing was largely overseen by her part-Comanche grandmother, a strong, proud woman who was fanatically clean (she handled money with tweezers). Not surprisingly, the occasional fond memory of childhood in Candy Hill is overshadowed by bitterness.”

In one of the book’s ten chapters, “Merry Christmas, Baby,” Nash remembers Christmas in 1954 in an excerpt from her essay, “Christmas is for the Children.”  

Our Candy Hill neighborhood buzzed with holiday cheer in 1954. The houses on our block playing the same radio station filled the air with angelic voices and assaulted my five-year-old ears with advertisements of treats we couldn’t afford. That was before we moved into the corner cottage, before my mother married, and before her consistent work history established good lines of credit in downtown Bryan department stores.

Everyone in the neighborhood seemed to be struck by the spirit. Mrs. Raper, who never spoke to children, traipsed around like an over-weight good fairy, passing out sugary wishes tucked inside red woolen Santa booties. Mrs. Hines, who wouldn’t allow a thirsty child a warm drink of water from her yard faucet in the heat of summer, tried to distribute homemade cookies to suspicious Candy Hill youngsters, who were unable to eat the goodies for fear that they might be laced with poison.

Operators of grocery stores in other parts of town gave needy Candy Hill families last minute, nearly-gone-bad holiday turkeys after regular customers had finished their shopping. And more fortunate well wishers brought carloads of broken toy fire trucks with chipping red paint, bicycles that needed chains, sweaters with small holes in the elbows, toy tea sets with missing saucers, and naked, one-eyed dolls.

“My mother never took the hand-me-downs,” Nash said. “She bought new things for Christmas at Woolworth’s.” During the 1950s, Christmas tree ornaments, home decorations and toys could be found at what was then called, "Five-and-Dime" stores, among them F. W. Woolworth, where Nash’s grandmother, Bigmama, refused to shop because of the store’s racial policies at that time, which led to the highly publicized sitins at Woolworth's lunch counters by black college students across the nation.

"The last Woolworth's Five and Dime closed in 1997 and some people in audiences where I have spoken blamed my book, Bigmama Didn’t Shop At Woolworth’s," Nash said. "I assured them that the closing of Woolworth's had a lot more to do with Wal-Mart and other discount stores than my book. But thank you for crediting me with the power to bring down the giant."  

In the video below, Sunny Nash introduces herself and her book, Bigmama Didn’t Shop At Woolworth’s.

Robin Fruble of Southern California said, “Every white person in America should read this book (Bigmama Didn’t Shop At Woolworth’s)! Sunny Nash writes the story of her childhood without preaching or ranting but she made me realize for the first time just how much skin color changes how one experiences the world.  But, if your skin color is brown, it matters a great deal to a great number of people. I needed to learn that. Sunny Nash is a great teacher,” Fruble said.

Bigmama Didn’t Shop At Woolworth’s can be purchased at all major bookstores, domestic and international, as well as the Republic of Texas Museum in Austin, operated by the Daughters of the Republic of Texas, whose mission since 1891 has been to preserve Texas’ historic landmarks such as the Alamo in San Antonio and Texas heritage like stories by Sunny Nash. Bigmama Didn’t Shop At Woolworth’s by Sunny Nash, follow the Republic of Texas Museum link below:

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About Sunny Nash: Author of Bigmama Didn't Shop At Woolworth's, Sunny Nash is an award-winning writer, photographer, producer and public speaker. Her work appears in the African American National Biography by Harvard and Oxford; African American West, A Century of Short Stories; Reflections in Black, A History of Black Photography 1840 - Present; Ancestry Magazine; Companion to Southern Literature; Black Genesis: A Resource Book for African-American Genealogy; African American Foodways; Southwestern American Literature Journal and other anthologies. Nash is listed in references: The Source: a guidebook to American genealogy; Bibliographic Guide to Black Studies; Interdisciplinary Journal for Germanic Linguistics; Ebony Magazine; Southern Exposure; Hidden Sources: Family History in Unlikely Places; and others.

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