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Book details
  • Genre:HISTORY
  • SubGenre:Social History
  • Language:English
  • Pages:276
  • Paperback ISBN:9781098346737

Shades of Privilege

Two African American Families that Transformed the Carolinas, and the Nation

by Jeanne Simkins Hollis , George Simkins III and Deborah Mathis

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This book depicts a family history unparalleled in the Carolinas and the Nation. It tracks the history of two African-American families that so impacted society that it affected the Nation in the fight for civil and equal rights.
In 1951, George Simkins, Jr., of Greensboro, and Anna Oleona Atkins of Winston-Salem were married. Their elegant wedding not only brought together the black elite of North Carolina's Piedmont Triad, but more significantly, it merged two families who, arguably, did more to advance civil rights in the Carolinas than any other. George C. Simkins, Jr. hailed from an old line of South Carolina high achievers—the descendant of men who founded and settled communities, served as governors and members of Congress, fought for the Confederacy in the Civil War, and built elegant plantations along meandering rivers. Those were his white ancestors. The patriarch of the Black Simkinses, George's direct lineage, outlived slavery and became businessmen, lawyers, educators and lawyers and distinguished themselves in ways his white slave-holding father and enslaved mother could never have dreamed. And from that tree came George, who lived a relatively privileged life of ease until he decided one day to take a stand and play golf on the city's whites-only golf course. That move landed him in jail, and firmly in the throes of the civil rights movement. For the next 50 years, he would challenge every segregationist institution and convention he encountered. He rattled the white establishment, sued it, harassed it, exposed it and won. Segregated health care in the United States came tumbling down because of George Simkins' dogged litigation. Greensboro Schools were forced to end their pretense of compliance with the Brown decision and actually implement full desegregation because of Simkins' challenges. The lunch counters, retail stores, city employment rolls, libraries, sports facilities, bank staffs in Greensboro all bowed to Simkins' unrelenting pressure to install racial justice. He was, as one noted civil rights advocate noted, "Greensboro's preeminent civil rights activist of the 20th Century." Anna was cut from a different cloth. A statuesque beauty, her transparent refinement and poise might have easily led people to believe that she might be too demur for the movement. But her ancestry suggested otherwise. Anna's grandfather was Simon Greene Atkins, the son of former slaves and farmers, who seized upon education as his means of escaping the dread fate of most black Southerners at the dawn of the 20th Century. Simon's mastery of knowledge made him, first, a respected teacher, then principal, then, at last, founder of an institution of higher learning for African Americans. What is now Winston-Salem State University began as a twinkle in Simon's eye, materializing as a single building with one teacher and 25 students. In 2017, the thriving school celebrated its 125th anniversary. Anna's father — Simon's youngest son — went to Fisk, then to law school at Yale, where he was the first black editor of Yale Law Review. He graduated with top honors, was inducted into the renowned Order of the Coif (another black first), all while working two jobs on campus to finance his studies. At age 27, Jack argued before the U.S. Supreme Court in a landmark case that eventually liberated black voting rights. Until his death 60 years later, Jack returned to the courts frequently to win new and equal opportunities for African Americans in voting, school desegregation, and public accommodations cases. Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes once commented that he had rarely heard an argument as polished and competent as Jack's. Anna distinguished herself as a Ph.D. and university professor with a specialty in textiles and transculturation. After serving on Greensboro's City Council and on an array of boards and commissions, she traveled broadly and luxuriously, touching every continent except Antarctica. These are just some of the many characters from the Simkins and Atkins families discussed in the book. Together, they were responsible for norm-shattering advances that generations now take for granted.
About the author

Jeanne Simkins Hollis is the founder, President and CEO of Slater Infrastructure Group, LLC. Ms. Simkins Hollis is an attorney and businesswoman with over 30 years of experience in law, business and complex program management. She has represented a vast array of multinational clients in the banking, corporate, education, transportation and energy/utility sectors, and has served as a partner with several major law firms, specializing in corporate and international business transactions and regulatory matters. 

Ms. Simkins Hollis has extensive experience in program, project, and asset management, having represented Fortune 500 companies in the management of various aspects of their operations. She has an extensive background in planning and managing cross-functional business operations and has structured public and private partnerships and strategic alliances with major utilities and corporations.

Ms. Simkins Hollis is a member of the bar in the states of Georgia, Pennsylvania, and the District of Columbia. In addition to her degree from North Carolina Central School of Law, Ms. Simkins Hollis has a Masters of Law (LL.M.) in International Law from Georgetown University School of Law. Ms. Simkins Hollis serves on several non-profit boards and formerly chaired the City of Atlanta Zoning Review Board.

Chris Simkins is an award winning news correspondent and documentary producer with the international news organization Voice of America in Washington, DC.

In his 35 year journalism career, Chris worked as a general assignment radio and television reporter in Massachusetts, North Carolina and New York. He lived in Hong Kong for four years as VOA's East Asia Pacific Correspondent covering regional news and the 1997 handover of Hong Kong from Britain to China.

 For the last 20 years, Chris has served as a multi media journalist covering the Black community, including protests in Ferguson, Missouri and Baltimore. He spent two years reporting across the country on the opioid abuse crisis and produced a 15 part documentary series in 2018. Last year, he was the lead reporter for VOA's Virginia 1619 project commemorating the 400th anniversary of the first enslaved Africans brought to colonial Virginia, marking the beginning of more than two centuries of slavery in America.

This year, Chris has covered the impact of the coronavirus on Black Americans and racial injustice demonstrations following the death of George Floyd. Currently he is covering the 2020 Presidential Election concentrating on voting rights issues.

Deborah Mathis-After working as a deadline reporter for twenty-seven years (including a seven-year stint as White House Correspondent during the Clinton years), veteran journalist and author Deborah Mathis studied under a Shorenstein Fellowship at Harvard, taught at Northwestern University's prestigious Medill School of Journalism, was Communications Director at the Public Justice Foundation, wrote a weekly column for BlackAmericaWeb.com, and is the author of several books, including Yet A Stranger: Why Black Americans Still Don't Feel at Home, What God Can Do, Sole Sisters: the Joys and Pains of Single Black Women, In the Arena (with Julius Hollis) and Unlucky Number: The Murder of Lottery Winner Abraham Shakespeare (with Gregory Todd Smith).