From “I Was the Help” – Honoring My Journey: A Memoir/Family History:
I was not born to serve. However, no one told my mother that. That is why when she heard of a young woman who needed a nanny for her two-year-old daughter, she hurried and made sure I was first in line for the position… I felt trapped, caught up in a plan I did not know was in the making. The summer of 1962 was supposed to be my last summer of freedom…
Miss Ann hired me as a nanny, but I soon became victim of the old “bait and switch.” In a short time, I was “chief cook and bottle washer.” I was the maid, cook, shopper, laundress, hairdresser, bartender and chauffer… In my thinking, she was a wealthy, white woman accustomed to having her own way; therefore, she knew what she was doing by allowing me to drive without a license. I’m grateful I always returned safely.
Author Barbara Gray Armstrong came of age during Jim Crow when the color line was clearly drawn and America was divided into black and white. Black people were denied rights and endured discrimination. In Honoring My Journey, she weaves together both personal and public events as an exploration of what it was like being black in America.
In this memoir, she shares stories from her youth, growing up in the 1950s and ‘60s in the South and prospering despite widespread bigotry. Representing just a slice of her life, Honoring My Journey narrates experiences with her parents, siblings, grandparents, and classmates and of working as a nanny for a white family.
Armstrong blends the details of her family and family history into a larger, societal context to tell a story that is both personal and universal. Honoring My Journey provides insight into what it was like growing up during such a turbulent time in the nation’s history.