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SARAH 'SADIE' DELANY, 109, DIES; WROTE ACCLAIMED BOOK WITH CENTENARIAN SISTER

Sarah Delany, who became a best-selling author at 104 with her and her sister's reminiscences of a century of achievement as black women, has died. She was 109.

Miss Delany, who was known as Sadie, died in her sleep Monday at the suburban New York City home she had shared with her sister Bessie, who died in 1995 at the age of 104.

The two spry and witty women were independent and educated, with the gumption and humor to sustain them during the early days of the century in their native North Carolina and then in Harlem and beyond.

They wrote "Having Our Say: The Delany Sisters' First 100 Years" with journalist Amy Hill Hearth.

Published in 1993, it includes matter-of-fact references to the post-slavery years, segregation laws and violent racism.

As a young woman, Bessie Delany nearly was lynched after a run-in with a white person at a railroad station.

They also recalled their impressive family saga, their pride in the 1960s civil-rights movement and their success in the world of work in an age when most women stayed home.

"I never let prejudice stop me from what I wanted to do in this life," Sadie Delany said.

The book sold millions and has become a high school and college text as well as a play, "Having Our Say," which ran on Broadway in 1995 and was nominated for three Tony awards.

The sisters and their eight brothers and sisters grew up on the campus of St. Augustine's College in Raleigh, N.C. All 10 attended college.

Their father, freed from slavery as a child, became a vice principal of the school and the first elected black Episcopal bishop in the United States. Their mother helped run the school.

The two sisters moved to New York in their 20s and earned degrees from Columbia University. Along the way, they met intellectuals Booker T. Washington and W.E.B. Du Bois, entertainers Cab Calloway and Lena Horne and actor Paul Robeson.

Both had successful careers -- Sadie as a high school teacher, Bessie as a dentist.

Sadie became the first black domestic-science teacher in New York City public schools and had a candy business for a time.

Bessie opened a dental office in Harlem. Neither ever married.

In 1957, the sisters moved to Mount Vernon, a New York suburb. Bessie retired in 1950 to care for their mother.

Sadie retired in 1960.

Ms. Hearth, more than 65 years their junior, first interviewed them for a newspaper story and convinced them that their story merited a book. The three followed up with "The Delany Sisters' Book of Everyday Wisdom" in 1994.

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