Occasionally, I’m inspired enough by a book to feel compelled to share it. I don’t often read non-fiction, but when I do and am drawn in as I was with this one, I wonder why I don’t stray from fiction more often.
Inspiration Street, by Darrell Laurant, is a beautiful tapestry of the interconnecting lives and experiences that intersected on two blocks of Pierce Street in Lynchburg, VA. I was hooked from early on, and didn’t want to stop reading when it ended.
The narrative surpasses the local nature of two city blocks. The stories of individuals and their accomplishments, most of whom prevailed over multiple and significant obstacles, from the impacts of slavery through segregation and beyond, have implications for the broader American and African-American social history. As a still white-focused American society (ironically, given the rapidly changing demographics), the contributions of all but the most famous African-Americans are little known. (Many of those who were well known, by the way, visited Pierce Street, some multiple times.) The direct connections of most of the residents of Pierce Street with former slaves or first-generation descendants of slaves revealed a strength and determination of those residents to rise above, to utilize and maximize their talents and skills for the continued advancement of a population previously (and frighteningly) treated by much of the old south as unworthy of humane treatment, let alone capable of great accomplishments. In contrast, their humanness and their humanity shone through, along with their amazing intellect and talents.
It is a fascinating story—of artists and educators, athletes and professionals, of their connections with such luminaries ranging from U.S. Supreme Court justice Thurgood Marshall and Jackie Robinson to Duke Ellington and Maya Angelou, and many others, including Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. One of the residents, Anne Spencer, in addition to winning accolades for her poetry, opened her home on Pierce Street to many of the leading lights of the Harlem Renaissance.
Inspiration Street is a gem of a story that draws you into the lives and world of these two blocks of Pierce Street in the first half of the twentieth century and beyond to its present day resurgence and recognition of its broader place in history.
After reading Inspiration Street, you won’t soon forget the people or the Pierce Street. You may even want to visit there some day.
Darrell Laurant, author of Inspiration Street, also is responsible for the blog, Snowflakes Arise, helping authors gain recognition. You might want to check that out, too!