Even for someone who thinks they know a lot about the civil rights movement, the portrayal of 1963 Mississippi in The Help is astonishing. I was born around this time and can’t comprehend that in the span of my lifetime, the historical equivalent of a blink of an eye, African Americans were thought of as scarcely human.
While racism is hardly gone in this country, most at least have the decency to be ashamed enough of themselves to conceal or encode their bigotry.
People who have read the book have told me that it was so good that they whipped through it in a weekend. But not me. I found it too painful to read more than a few pages at a time before I had to put it aside.
Until Skeeter began her project. I don’t think I am spoiling anything to reveal that the plot is driven by a white woman who was inspired to write a book detailing the lives of the Black women working as maids or The Help.
The risks that both Skeeter and the maids, led by Aibileen and Minny, were taking was hair-raising. I nearly walked into to walls reading while walking when I just didn’t want to put The Help down. I couldn’t wait to see how far they were willing to go to tell their stories at a time when the most minor infraction of Jim Crow laws could result in beatings or death.
The stories of these brave women are well worth the read. I’ve heard that the movie is as good as the book. I can’t wait to see that as well.