Sadie and Bessie’s parents are the two most important people in their lives, and Having Our Say is dedicated to them. Their father, Henry, and mother, Nanny, are the driving forces in their lives, and their teachings and way of living are a constant reference point for the younger Delanys. When Sadie and Bessie talk to Hearth, they quote their parents constantly. Henry, born a slave, was a “house slave” before Emancipation. He became a brick mason as a young man in Fernandina Beach, Florida. When the white Episcopal preacher Owen Thackara assisted Henry to go to Saint Augustine’s School in North Carolina, it changed the course of Henry’s life and shaped the lives of his future children.
Henry, whose wife’s father was white and who received help for his education from a white man, could not denounce white people as easily as other blacks could. He was criticized for his “soft” approach on racism, but his daughters appreciate the complexity race issues posed for him. His post as the first elected bishop for the Episcopal Church of the United States was not only a personal achievement but also an achievement for his race. Henry instilled a love of learning and a profound sense of duty in his daughters. Though he is grateful for Thackara’s assistance with his education, he forbids his daughters from ever accepting a scholarship. He wants them to rely on themselves, and his children all work to put themselves through college and graduate school.