Ep. 41. Osha Gray Davidson on The Best of Enemies, the Story of Ann Atwater and C.P. Ellis
The unlikely friendship of black community activist Ann Atwater and C.P. Ellis, the Exalted Grand Cyclops of the Ku Klux Klan, brought together to co-chair a series of meetings about the desegregation of Durham Public Schools in 1971, seems extraordinary. And it must have seemed that way also to writer Osha Gray Davidson who documented Ann and CPs story in his book THE BEST OF ENEMIES: RACE AND REDEMPTION IN THE NEW SOUTH published by The University of North Carolina Press. Davidson’s book inspired the movie and a play written by Mark St. Germain. Davidson was in Durham to see the North Carolina Central University Theatre production of the play. It was his first time seeing it live and said the fact that he got to see it in Durham, just over a mile north from where the community meetings to desegregate Durham’s Public School took place. He called the experience pretty mind-blowing. “I miss Ann and C.P.,” he told the cast in a talkback afterward. “So, seeing them together was emotional because they’re real people to me.”
Osha Gray Davidson is an award-winning author, freelance writer, and photographer. He has written six books of non-fiction, including “The Best of Enemies” which was a finalist for the NYPL’s Helen Bernstein Book Award for Excellence in Journalism. The film adaptation of “Best of Enemies” starring Sam Rockwell and Taraji Henson was released in April of 2019. Davidson’s work has appeared in the New York Times, the Washington Post, National Geographic, Mother Jones, and Rolling Stone.
Ruby Christmas is a Durham native who says she knew Ann Atwater and worked with her on several boards in Durham including, Operation Breakthrough, Head Start, and the Sickle Cell Foundation. She attended one of the first community meetings in Durham about desegregating Durham Public Schools in 1971.