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‘When We Were Colored’ author at Ripon Library

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‘When We Were Colored’ author at Ripon Library

The cover to the book "When We Were Colored, A Mother's Story."


POSTED January 22, 2009 1:23 a.m.
Ripon Library is going to host a unique black author in February — she is blind and in her 90s.  She started writing because she “wanted to inspire people and make them feel good.”

And she has done just that.

Eva Rutland has authored nearly two dozen novels and received the 2000 Golden Pen Award for Lifetime Achievement.

Riponites will hear her present her story — “When We Were Colored, A Mother’s Story —  of growing up black in Atlanta, GA.  It is  relevant story-line  first published in 1964.  It tells of her life in the years before integration — before affirmative action —when segregation was the norm and discrimination was legally tolerated.

It began in a time before World War II, moving west after the war and raising her children in Sacramento in the ‘50s and the ‘60s. “A Mother’s Story”  tells of being the first black man in a prominent position in an  all-white work place and the first black woman in the PTA, the first black child in a Girl Scout Troop and the first black child in the classroom.

Rutland wrote her manuscript while her kids were in school as she worried about her children entering a newly integrated world that was a little frightened of black children.

In her writings she attempted to tell white mothers that her children were no different than their children — that they were just as precious and just as vulnerable — and to be nice to them.

A granddaughter today, Eva Fields,  is at Rutland’s side today taking her on a book signing tour that includes Ripon Library on  Wednesday, Feb. 7, at 3 p.m. She remembers a breakfast she shared with her grandmother when she heard her say she wanted to inspire people with her writing — wanting them to feel good from what they read.

That first book tells of raising her black children in the Curtis Park neighborhood of Sacramento where it wasn’t always easy among a block of white families.

Fields said her college friends have shown surprise when they are told that her grandmother wrote a “happy book” about being a black mother in America.  She had grown up as an only child, the daughter of a school teacher and a pharmacist sheltered from the harsh racial realities of life in the South.

She writes about her oldest daughter, the only black student in her elementary school class in the early ‘50s.  Her daughter made friends with a white girl whose mother was prejudiced against all minorities and especially blacks.

Although the girl had promised to come over and play her mother wouldn’t allow it because she couldn’t play with Negroes.  She was crushed and said she wished she wasn’t black.

The granddaughter noted that in the span of 50 years she is surprised at how much the world — and especially the neighborhood — has changed.  She said she attended the same schools as did her grandmother’s children.

“The world that my grandma describes is not the same world that I grew up in,” she said.  To learn more about Eva Rutland’s books go online at
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