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Publisher's Summary

C. P. Ellis grew up in the poor white section of Durham, North Carolina, and as a young man joined the Ku Klux Klan. Ann Atwater, a single mother from the poor black part of town, quit her job as a household domestic to join the civil rights fight.

During the 1960s, as the country struggled with the explosive issue of race, Atwater and Ellis met on opposite sides of the public school integration issue. Their encounters were charged with hatred and suspicion. In an amazing set of transformations, however, each of them came to see how the other had been exploited by the South's rigid power structure, and they forged a friendship that flourished against a backdrop of unrelenting bigotry.

Rich with details about the rhythms of daily life in the mid-20th-century South, The Best of Enemies offers a vivid portrait of a relationship that defied all odds. By placing this very personal story into broader context, Osha Gray Davidson demonstrates that race is intimately tied to issues of class and that cooperation is possible - even in the most divisive situations - when people begin to listen to one another.

©2017 Blackstone Audio, Inc. (P)2017 Osha Gray Davidson
  • Unabridged Audiobook
  • Categories: History

What listeners say about The Best of Enemies

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  • M
  • 04-17-19

WOW!! NO other words are needed!!!!!!!!

what one person could describe what has happened since then?
Being of mixed race.. it's hard for one on either side... you're too white to be black and too black to be white!
I'm glad that they fought for people in the middle

4 people found this helpful

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More of a history lesson!

I bought this book to hear the story of Ann Atwater and C.P. Ellis, I am on chapter 6 and they have barely been mentioned. This book is 80% history. I am a civil rights buff so it is not that I don't enjoy the history of the civil rights movement, its just not what I expected in this book. So as an FYI to other purchasers I am writing this review before I finish the book. I do hope they get to the main individuals soon.

2 people found this helpful

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Growth from within a man's soul

This audiobook was touching and deliberating detailed about the background, struggles and life-changing relations that he came to. Like Saul changing to Paul with the glory of the relations of being wrong, this story demonstrates that we can grow to be greater than we once were.

2 people found this helpful

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Reminds me of Nelson Mandela

It is too bad we don’t find more people like this in our society, and in our world.

1 person found this helpful

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i found it to be very educational.

I learned from the author a very balanced picture of the proceedings. Watch the movie too.

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Lots of background information

This book provides a lot of historical information and events that influenced the story of CP and Anne. I didn’t expect this. I expected more of the personal stories.

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Wow Wow and Wow

Well, I don't know what those people talking about the book is too long and not addressing the CP Ellis and Ann Atwaters from the start! if you want the snapshot then just watch the movie! the book is brilliant! simply brilliant. rarely do you see this history of the civil rights movement with an emphasis on the economy, race and the hostile political environment back in the sixties all woven together in this fashion. I have to admit as well that the narrator is fantabulous. He kept me on my toes as if I was there in North Carolina in the seventies. I loved the lunch counter movement and I did re-watch the movie after I read the book and I feel I had a better appreciation for it now. I now notice the operation breakthrough and actually understands where it is coming from! I feel the movie didn't do the book justice as the development and the evolution of CP Ellis seemed more reasonable and steady in the book, but rather sketchy and silly in the movie! he didn't rip off his card in real life nor would that be something he would do! he tried to mobilize the group to his new perspective which is not necessarily race changed by economy changed.

I can't thank Osha Gray enough for writing this book. Thank you thank you and thank you.

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Whatta story!

I watched the film which holds the same title as this biography and felt like it didn’t give the whole story. This audiobook, however, provides all the necessary backstory and details a person needs to understand Ellis and Atwater’s complicated relationship.

Surprisingly, the last two chapters seem to be what the motion picture was based on which beautifully wraps up how and why Ellis changed to become a better man.

It’s definitely worth the listen.

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80% history and 20% C.P. Ellis and Ann Atwater

I selected this book because I thought it was the novelization of the movie "The Best of Enemies" staring Taraji P. Henson and Sam Rockwell. I wanted to read the book first before watching the movie. The book cover is misleading. The book is at least 80% on the history of Durham, North Carolina and about 20% on the story of C.P. Ellis and Ann Atwater. You have to listen for HOURS before the book even gets into mentioning Ellis and Atwater, then it goes back to more history and in last couple of hours, it goes back to Ellis and Atwater. I normally love history but I was really interested in the story of the frenemies. I wanted to know HOW was it possible that a Klansman and a black woman worked together? How did they not kill each other?! The conflict from opposing sides just added to the drama and tension between the two individuals. In the beginning, I was getting impatient with the non-stop history, like where is this book going? It was interesting to peer inside the head of a Klansman and learn why someone would join the KKK. I would say it was absolutely worth it to listen to the end because the spiritual transformation of C.P. Ellis was incredibly moving. I loved and admired Ann's spiritual strength. She is a powerhouse. They both realized how much they had in common. Blacks and whites should not be enemies. The enemy is poverty and all the evil that grows from it. They were successful because each one loved their communities more than they hated each other. Their hearts were changed from their interaction. The intensity of feelings between the black and white communities reminds me of what is happening in our country right now. If only we could see how the rich and powerful control everything and keep poor people in poverty for generations on purpose. Our country has the resources to feed, house and educate every single person BUT greedy rich people won't let it happen.

NOTE: I just watched the movie and I am glad I read the book first. There were some scenes in the movie that I don't remember in the book. Some scenes in the movie were very understated compared to the book. I recommend reading the book and watching the movie because each gives the other context. I felt the focus of the movie was more on C.P., while the book presented Ann equally with C.P. At the end of the movie, there are clips of the real C.P. Ellis and Ann Atwater in an interview. You could see the warmth of their friendship of 30 years.

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If you have seen the movie this is better by far!

I’ve seen the movie several times as I find the story moving and up lifting. I believe in this story even more today than when it happened. We are all the same when you get right down to it! This just proves it! I now have both the book and the movie and watching the two main characters with each other shows how true we are all the same!

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  • KK
  • 12-19-21

Detailed History

I was interested to read this book because the film of the same name is one of my favourite films. Also, because the story of Ann Atwater and CP Ellis is such an inspiring one. You certainly don't need any prior knowledge of the story or film to enjoy the book, though.

The book provides all the historical background to the part of America where the story takes place, and about the Civil Rights movement in the USA. It really helped me understand what a struggle that was, that isn't over of course, and how many people fought for equality, on buses, at restaurants, shops, housing meetings, factories, courts, etc. With quite a lot of detail.

It goes into the background and early lives of Ann and of CP. It also introduces Bill Ruddock, the remarkable personality who made the charrette happen and how he came to be there, as well as US civil rights leaders and local figures.

Such an inspiring story deserves to be as widely known and understood as possible.

It's the story of many people, especially the two main characters, and especially CP's personal journey, life learning, and his redemption. A strength of the book is how it draws you in to empathise with him as a human being as well as the predicament he's in.

Suitable for all, and highly recommended.

1 person found this helpful