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An Hour Before Daylight: Memoirs of a Rural Boyhood [Paperback]

Jimmy Carter
4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (58 customer reviews)
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Book Description

Oct. 16 2001
In An Hour Before Daylight, Jimmy Carter, bestselling author of Living Faith and Sources of Strength, re-creates his Depression-era boyhood on a Georgia farm before the civil rights movement forever changed it and the country. Carter writes about the powerful rhythms of countryside and community in a sharecropping economy, offering an unforgettable portrait of his father, a brilliant farmer and a strict segregationist who treated black workers with respect and fairness; his strong-willed and well-read mother; and the five other people who shaped his early life, three of whom were black.
Carter's clean and eloquent prose evokes a time when the cycles of life were predictable and simple and the rules were heartbreaking and complex. In his singular voice and with a novelist's gift for detail, Jimmy Carter creates a sensitive portrait of an era that shaped the nation and recounts a classic, American story of enduring importance.

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From Amazon

Born on October 1, 1924, Jimmy Carter grew up on a Georgia farm during the Great Depression. In An Hour Before Daylight, the former president tells the story of his rural boyhood, and paints a sensitive portrait of America before the civil rights movement.

Carter describes--in glorious, if sometimes gory, detail--growing up on a farm where everything was done by either hand or mule: plowing fields, "mopping" cotton to kill pests, cutting sugar cane, shaking peanuts, or processing pork. He also describes the joys of walking barefoot ("this habit alone helped to create a sense of intimacy with the earth"), taking naps with his father on the porch after lunch, and hunting with slingshots and boomerangs with his playmates--all of whom were black. Carter was in constant contact with his black neighbors; he worked alongside them, ate in their homes, and often spent the night in the home of Rachel and Jack Clark, "on a pallet on the floor stuffed with corn shucks," when his parents were away. However, this intimacy was possible only on the farm. When young Jimmy and his best friend, A.D. Davis, went to town to see a movie, they waited for the train together, paid their 15 cents, and then separated into "white" and "colored" compartments. Once in Americus, they walked to the theater together, but separated again, with Jimmy buying a seat on the main floor or first balcony at the front door, and A.D. going around to the back door to buy his seat up in the upper balcony. After the movie, they returned home on another segregated train. "I don't remember ever questioning the mandatory racial separation, which we accepted like breathing or waking up in Archery every morning."

In this warm, almost sepia-toned narrative, Carter describes his relationships with his parents and with the five people--only two of whom were white--who most affected his early life. Best of all, however, Carter presents his sweetly nostalgic recollections of a lost America. --Sunny Delaney --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From Booklist

Carter has written more than a dozen books since he left the White House; this vivid recollection of his Georgia childhood will probably be one of his most popular efforts. There are facts here--about the economics of farming during the Depression, the structure of sharecropping, and Georgia politics, for example--but the focus of Carter's narrative is the people who nurtured him on the farm and in Plains. Despite segregation, these people included African American neighbors as well as his own family, and Carter supplies lively portraits of many of the adults and children, black and white, who impressed him when he was little. Using a conversational tone, Carter wanders through the past, commenting on the weather and crop prices, local geography, chores and illnesses, adjusting to school, and learning to hunt and fish. Carter remains more popular as an ex-president than he was during his term of office, and his experiences are just different enough from those of most readers that his memoir should have broad appeal. Mary Carroll
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

Inside This Book (Learn More)
First Sentence
IF YOU LEAVE Savannah on the coast and travel on the only U.S. highway that goes almost straight westward across the state of Georgia, you will cross the Ogeechee, Oconee, and Ocmulgee rivers, all of which flow to the south and east and empty into the Atlantic Ocean. Read the first page
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Front Cover | Copyright | Table of Contents | Excerpt | Index | Back Cover
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Most helpful customer reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars Don't judge a book by its cover Sept. 4 2011
By M. Yakiwchuk TOP 500 REVIEWER
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
If you were to judge An Hour Before Daylight by its cover, you might not read it. It's black and white and paints its author in a less than flattering light. Fortunately, the book is considerably better than the book cover. An Hour Before Daylight chronicles Jimmy Carter's upbringing in Plains, Georgia (near Archery) as well as the lives of his family members, relatives, acquaintances and friends. Most of the book (about 80%) covers day to day live on the farm. Planing crops, harvesting, the sharecropping system and more are covered in detail. For this city kid, this had the potential to be tedious reading, or worse, unrelatable. Fortunately, it is neither. Thanks to Mr. Carter's engaging and non-judgmental writing style, we are taken along on a journey of discovery. Above all, Mr. Carter comes across as honest in his book. I was surprised to find that he's a normal person, just like you and me (though he does have an exceptionally peculiar family!)

An Hour Before Daylight is part memoir, part biography, and part autobiography. What it isn't is dull. No matter what subject he's writing about, Mr. Carter never fails to be both informative and entertaining, and I very much enjoyed his account of the stories in this book. Whether or not you have an interest in learning about Jimmy Carter's life, I recommend you read this book. It's more a wealth of information about rural life in Southern Georgia than it is a traditional biography. And while we do learn a fair bit about the man who would be America's 39th President, what surprised me is just how interesting the people Mr. Carter knew growing up are. I recommend this book to men, women, and children of all ages. A very enjoyable experience to read. Recommended. 5/5
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After reading this book it is easy to understand why Jimmy Carter was denigrated as a weak Leader who let America's enemies walk all over him. As he looks back with affection & describes his childhood in a strict, hardworking, but loving family on a farm in back country Depression-Era Georgia, Mr Carter comes across as a genuinely kind and good man who respects his fellow-men & women - regardless of color or creed; who is tolerant of - though not entirely blind to -- the shortcomings & foibles of others, and truly incapable of seeing evil in anyone. In short, he is the Ideal Christian. This also goes a long way to explain why subsequently he became so widely respected on the International stage in his second career as Humanitarian & Fixer of the World's Problems.

Mr Carter paints a colourful word-picture of his boyhood home, the close-knit community, the Carter farm, the livestock, the hunting dogs, his family, and his neighbours, the black tenant farmers and their children with whom he worked and played. There is nostalgia for a time and way of life that largely disappeared from this continent half a century ago, when children worked harder & shouldered more responsibility than today's young people can even imagine, but which was the making of them as responsible adults. Yet his writing style is innocent & light-hearted, and occasionally down-right laughable as, for example, when he gives us some examples of his rural childhood diction. It is hard to imagine the urbane, educated Mr Carter uttering the words "We et a bait of plums" or, having travelled 30 miles to see the flooding Flint River, "Wheh de ribber, Daddy? Is it down in dat creek?"

This book touched me on a more personal level as well.
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4.0 out of 5 stars The sepia toned boyhood of Jimmy Carter Jan. 15 2004
Reading this book, it's easy to understand why the ex-president insisted, "It's Jimmy. Just call me Jimmy." I wasn't much of a Carter fan during the man's presidency but have since come to appreciate him greatly, mostly for his honesty, sincerity, and humanity. An Hour Before Daylight makes it easy to understand how he became the person he still in.
Born on a Georgia farm during the Depression, Carter grew up in the days of rigid segregation, but at the same time all his friends were black children. He writes lucidly, sometimes lyrically and with strong nostalgia for an era of American history long past.
It's definitely worth a read.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Needs a colorful cover Dec 12 2003
By A Customer
My mother gave me a copy for Christmas. We live just a stone's throw from Plains and she grew up very similarly. This reminds me of John Boy musing on the Walton's TV show or Mark Twain's colorful characters. Carter is a master farmer and gives a wealth of agriculture and outdoor information. As a librarian I put a copy in our library and think it belongs in every library! This is one of the best rural Depression era Americana. The cover is much too drab for the colorful characters inside.
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5.0 out of 5 stars an honest and open look at Jimmy Carter's youth Sept. 3 2003
This was a wonderful book. Mr. Carter tells the story about how he grew up in a warm and candid manner. He grew up in rural Georgia during the depression era. He tells about the farm life and the chores and the cold mornings when he and his siblings would rush to his parents bedroom, the room with the heater, to get dressed. When he was on the farm he would play with black children and was close to the black families on the farm, but if he went to town to the movies with one of his black friends as soon as they got on the train they would seperate and go to different seating areas and when they got off they would walk to the theatre together and then again go to different seating areas. That was the way it was at that time. He talks about his family and how they interacted with each other. He doesn't try to mince his words, he gives an honest account of his youth. His family is a lot like most families {although not too many have one who was president), with some ups and downs, but underlying it all you can feel the love they have for each other. When you read this book you will understand the man, from the history of his youth. When I got done reading this book, I was left with a good feeling and a more positive attitude about the world. Jimmy Carter, through his religious beliefs, has done a lot of wonderful things for the people.
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Most recent customer reviews
3.0 out of 5 stars My grandma loved this book
My grandma sure seemed to like this book a hell of alot. She mentions it everytime we see her. I figres it must be worth 3 stars at least.
Published on April 4 2004
5.0 out of 5 stars Memoirs of a decent man
Jimmy Carter, throughout his political career and since his defeat by the seeminly revered Ronnie Reagan, has demonstrated again and again his basic decency and humanity. Read more
Published on March 26 2003 by William F Harrison
3.0 out of 5 stars Jimmy Who?
Had this engaging and conversational journey through President Carter's early days in Archer, Georgia been published prior to his '76 campaign, Americans would have understood... Read more
Published on March 8 2003 by Kim Gokce
5.0 out of 5 stars my goodness
This book is so wonderful, my goodness it is not even very long but also it is real fun to read it and I like it to. I wish that more books could be made that were like this book. Read more
Published on Oct. 8 2002
4.0 out of 5 stars From whence he came
I enjoyed this book tremendously. I am always fascinated to learn of the humble beginnings to peoples lives. Especially those whove made a difference in our world. Read more
Published on Oct. 1 2002 by JAYBIRD
5.0 out of 5 stars a detailed and affectionate memoir
Jimmy Carter, one of our most under-rated Presidents, here brings his formidable intelligence and his shining integrity to bear upon a wonderful memoir of his early years. Read more
Published on Aug. 20 2002 by Karen Sampson Hudson
3.0 out of 5 stars Gather around the fire and listen to Uncle Carter relate
"An Hour Before Daylight" is a fascinating view into the upbringing of one of America's most unlikely Presidents. Read more
Published on July 9 2002 by Evan M. Thomas
5.0 out of 5 stars Fascinating story told by a true scholar
In this brief but revealing volume, former US president Jimmy Carter traces his not-quite-hardscrabble rural boyhood in Plains, Georgia. Read more
Published on June 19 2002
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