Delta Rainbow: The Irrepressible Betty Bobo Pearson by Sally Thomason and Jean Fisher.

Every once in a while, you come across a hidden gem, published by a small university press. I have done just this in discovering Delta Rainbow. Delta Rainbow, accurately subtitled, “The Irrepressible Betty Bobo Pearson,” is a compelling biography with all the allure of a well-crafted novel, in that its subject does indeed come across as absolutely irrepressible. The book opens with a speeding train and holds the reader captive through the life and times of Erie Elizabeth Bobo then doesn’t lessen its grip until the repercussive significance of that train comes back to haunt.
It is the year 1955, in Sumner, Mississippi, and thirty-something Betty Bobo Pearson attends the sham of the trial of one Emmett Till, a fourteen-year-old black boy from Chicago, who was found murdered in Mississippi by two white locals. In a trial telling of the times, justice is not served, and it sets the life’s work of Betty Pearson on course. But first, we learn Betty’s backstory. That she is born to privilege in a regionally prominent family sets the stage for what is to come, for, in time, Betty’s civic outlook and magnanimous heart is at variance with the tightly held racial divide, and this biography becomes an issue of personal conscious as Betty follows the beat of her own drum, and in so doing, bucks the system. On the very cusp of the civil rights movement, preceding Rosa Parks’ infamous stand, Betty is one step ahead of civil unrest. Much to her Southern family’s chagrin, she grows into a champion of integration—she is spirited, ambitious, and dogged in her egalitarian beliefs; she is a genteel warrior in a cotton print dress.
Collaborators Sally Palmer Thomason and Jean Carter Fisher have done, in this engrossing book, what Southerners do best: they have told a great story. Delta Rainbow is crafted with beautiful, historic balance. It lends a sensitive eye to detail as it lures the reader through Southern social mores with a strong sense of time and place. We feel the Delta’s humidity, marvel at Betty Pearson’s parties, covet her gardens, and wish we had half of her gumption in standing up for what she believes is right. Never one to sit on the sidelines while others dictate the law, Betty
Pearson is a woman of action, a member of every forward-thinking committee designed for racial equality, and if she wasn’t invited to join, she spearheaded the task force.
All hail the University of Mississippi Press for seeing fit to publish this important biography. Delta Rainbow: The Irrepressible Betty Bobo Pearson is as educational as it is inspiring, and I bow to Sally Palmer Thomason and Jean Carter Fisher of Memphis for taking what is clearly a wealth of research and information and adroitly handling it at such a pitch as to make it so thoroughly engaging.

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