The spirited oral history of a remarkable African American woman

All is Never Said

The Story of Odette Harper Hines

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Judith Rollins

"This oral history of civil-rights activist Odette Harper Hines is not the usual account of sit-ins, marches, and triumphs and tragedies—it offers a more intimate look in which Hines reveals many sides of her life as a daughter, sister, wife, mother and worker as well as activist.... Rollins relates Hines's story in a powerful yet entertaining style. By the end, readers will feel that not only have the met Hines—they know her."
Publishers Weekly

With intelligence, insight, and humor, Odette Harper Hines describes her life—a life that reversed the pattern of the Great Migration by beginning in prosperity in the urban North and moving into the small-town South. Recorded by Judith Rollins over eight years, this intimate narrative is an unusual collaboration between two African American women who represent two generations of civil rights activists.

Born in New York into a comfortable family, Hines' activism began I the Abyssinian Baptist Church in her teens and continued throughout her life as she witnessed the Great Depression in Harlem, worked on the WPA Writers Project, became publicity director of the NAACP, and volunteered for the Red Cross in Europe during WWII. When she moved to Louisiana in 1946, she continued to challenge racial injustice and risked her life to house civil rights workers in the early 1960s (Rollins, among them). She later started and directed the Headstart Program in her parish.

Throughout this narrative, Hines describes her relationships with such figures as Mary McLeod Bethune, Adam Clayton Powell, Walter White, Thurgood Marshall, Ella Baker, Marcus Garvey, Claude McKay, Ralph Ellison, and many others. Yet Hines' memoir is not only about her public life. She courageously reveals her personal life and private pain. Twenty-eight photographs— mostly from Hines' family album—accuentuate this oral history that is, as Rollins states in her Introduction, "a complex and textured portrait of an extraordinary twentieth century American woman."



Read an excerpt from Chapter 1 (pdf).

"My marriage and my family were everything to me. I remember saying a little prayer in the early years of our marriage that I would die before he did, because I didn't think I could live without him. And the Lord had to tell me, you're a darned fool. You can live without him! And I've learned that lesson very well....I know better than that now. And I've tried to raise my daughters so that they will never have so much of their identity tied up with a man's."

"I accompanied Thurgood Marshall on the appeal of a case in which three black soldiers had been convicted of raping a white woman....The local NAACP called our office and asked Thurgood to handle the appeal; and it was for that he and I came to Alexandria in February of '43 .The appeal was lost. But the case wasn't. It was revealed that the young woman had a venereal disease and Thurgood argued that if there'd been any congress between her and these three soldiers, they'd have it also. And they didn't. That eventually got them off. But I remember vowing, as I left Alexandria that day, that I'd never come back here."



"[Hines's] story is fascinating because of her participation in so many historical events. It is most compelling, however, for the perspective it offers on racism and activism. All may never be said, but this book advances our understanding of race and gender remarkably."
Library Journal

"Judith Rollins has given us all a searingly beautiful and important book. The indomitable NAACP publicity directory, adventurous World War II Red Cross volunteer, courageous Civil Rights activist, and Mother, Odette Harper Hines tells a powerful tale of Black life behind and in front of the veil. I have yet to read a more honest, passionate, and profoundly uplifting narrative."
Darlene Clark Hine, Michigan State University

"The world is lucky always to find one more life-story of human grace, courage, and wonder than it has any right to expect—like this one, coming from unsuspected, almost hidden quarters. All is indeed never said. But if you were to try to make a mosaic of America in the twentieth century by putting together a score or so of such life-stories, this awe-inspiring tale must need be one of them."
Clyde Taylor, Tufts University

"Rollins's biography provides some rich sociological materials that can be used as a supplement for courses in social stratification, race and ethnic relations, and women's studies."
Gender and Society



Family Trees
1. Home: "Jada, Jada, Jada Jada Jing Jing Jing"
2. Family: "They were so diverse..."
3. "Young Thinkers" and Others: "I was be very much out in the world."
4. The Writers Project: "...right where I wanted to be."
5. The NAACP: "Everybody in there had a sense of mission."
6. World War II: "[They] wanted to make like the Red Cross was integrated."
7. Going South: "In the front of the train and the back of the bus."
8. The Trial: "...there's something dreamlike about that period."
9. The Fifties: "What color is cotton? Pick it yourself!"
10. The Civil Rights Movement: "It was a real community effort."
11. Headstart: "I simply could not have not done it."
12. Taking Care: "If you're alive, live."


About the Author(s)

Judith Rollins is Associate Professor of Africana Studies and Sociology at Wellesley College, and the author of Between Women: Domestics and Their Employers (Temple).

Subject Categories

African American Studies
Women's Studies



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