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An Hour Before Daylight : Memories of a Rural Boyhood Paperback – October 16, 2001


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Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com Review

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.
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 288 pages
  • Publisher: Simon & Schuster; New edition edition (October 16, 2001)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0743211995
  • ISBN-13: 978-0743211994
  • Product Dimensions: 6.1 x 0.7 x 9.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 14.4 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (118 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #135,708 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Jimmy Carter was born in Plains, Georgia, and served as thirty-ninth President of the United States. He and his wife, Rosalynn, founded The Carter Center, a nonprofit organization that prevents and resolves conflicts, enhances freedom and democracy, and improves health around the world. He is the author of numerous books, including Palestine Peace Not Apartheid, An Hour Before Daylight and Our Endangered Values. He received a "Best Spoken Word" Grammy Award for his recording of Our Endangered Values. All of President Carter's proceeds from this series will go to the Maranatha Baptist Church of Plains, Georgia.

Customer Reviews

Book is well written, informative & easy to read.
Ruth May
The stories that Jimmy Carter tells of his childhood are similar to my mother's stories, so this book touched a tender spot in my heart.
Bowe
Jimmy Carter does a nice job of describing in great detail his life growing up in rural Georgia during the Depression.
Shenandoah Andy

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

113 of 119 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on January 9, 2001
Format: Hardcover
I never really knew the president until I read the book. It provided insight and valuable understanding into the development of his ideals and lifelong commitment to community. Every night as I tucked my three darling sons into bed, we would cast aside Harry Potter for Hour Before Daylight. What a wonderful way to share our history with the family.
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48 of 52 people found the following review helpful By Kim Gokce on March 8, 2003
Format: Paperback
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 better the thinking of the man they were to elect that year. Was his earnestness and honesty so surprising? This narrative strolls the reader through the gritty, but innocent, formative years of one of our country's most respected leaders.
A personal tribute to a place and the people that this man loves the most, the reader will find themselves enveloped in the minutiae of neighborhood scuttlebutt, hog slaughtering, Depression era agricultural economics, and of the (then) easy bigotry of the Deep South. The author lauds the passing of evils of the time and examines his own anxieties about the future of his family's generational farming heritage.
As a Georgian and as an American, I was delighted and entertained by President Carter's honesty and humor once again. Entertaining for all ages and a great introduction to rural life for young people. A fun & easy weekend read!
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61 of 68 people found the following review helpful By Linda Peregrino on January 18, 2001
Format: Hardcover
I couldn't put it down...What a remarkable life Jimmy Carter has led, and what rough times people had during the Depression. I really enjoyed other books by Jimmy Carter, but I think this one is my favorite. I'm very glad he became President of the U.S....he is a man of character.
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31 of 33 people found the following review helpful By Evan M. Thomas on July 9, 2002
Format: Paperback
"An Hour Before Daylight" is a fascinating view into the upbringing of one of America's most unlikely Presidents. Growing up in the rural south (is that an oxymoron for the 1930's south?) is about as far
removed from the beltway as anyplace I can imagine.
Carter presents to the reader that the values that he took to the presidency he acquired while growing up in a farm in central Georgia - mainly: hard work, personal responsibility, and an appreciation of diversity.
Yet, while the story itself is intriguing, the presentation is somewhat lacking. The book is repetative and the dialog is somewhat stilted. Carter makes the same points over and over and retells some of the same stories. One has the sense that Uncle Carter is telling us youngin's how it really was in them olden days while at the same time obviously pining for a time when the world seemed simpler.
Overall,. the tone of this book reminded me a lot of John Grisham's "A Painted House," a novel that I highly recommend.
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18 of 18 people found the following review helpful By Misha on February 8, 2001
Format: Hardcover
This book is one of the best you'll read this year, guaranteed. It's a glimpse into the former President's youth, a life which was never easy, but never one that was complained about. Rather than writing a diatribe railing against growing up without having been born with the silver spoon found in so many of the other Presidents' mouths, Mr. Carter explores and celebrates the small trials he faced and which, eventually, molded him into the man who became President. "Angela's Ashes" as written from Georgia? Why not?
This book makes an outstanding gift, if only to yourself!
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30 of 33 people found the following review helpful By LYNDA DILLON ORR on July 6, 2001
Format: Hardcover
I can't help wonder what some of the descendents of sharecroppers would think about Mr. Carter's book. It is evident that Mr. Carter is a decent and sincere man, embarrassed by the treatment of the black and less fortunate community in his time. His family was perhaps more caring and conscientious in their treatment of their sharecroppers than other families, but the system to keep the sharecroppers "in their place" was evidently firmly ensconced in their society. It would be interesting to look at the story from the sharecropper's perspective.
But the book is not intended to be from the sharecropper's perspective, and I am impressed by the candor and openness of our former President. I do not think the audio version is necessary to "hear" the story. The descriptions and tales of life in rural Georgia are portrayed with a remarkable reality. I could see it, feel it, and taste it-but that might have something to do with my memories as a child on a farm in southeastern Georgia.
Although the descriptions are fascinating and the stories are interesting, I rate Mr. Carter's memoir with a 3. The descriptive style is sometimes tedious and boring, and the stories are from a limited perspective. While Mr. Carter honestly acknowledges his own humanity and is open about personal failings, the tone frequently is pious and condescending. Perhaps that is what a memoir is...and is the reason I prefer biographies to autobiographies.
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29 of 32 people found the following review helpful By Connie VINE VOICE on October 24, 2007
Format: Paperback
I've been wanting to read one or more of President Carter's books for a long time and decided to begin with this one. While I agree that it is well-executed in the main, it doesn't score higher with me on a few grounds.

One: I felt there was a need for more fastidious editing. The book was by no means too long, but there was repetition and disordered content.

Two: Way too much detail in some of the more mundane and unpleasant sections, in particular discussions of minutiae of small-town agribusiness dealings as well as graphic detail of livestock issues including slaughtering and castrating. TMI.

Three: This is a half-hearted complaint, for I realize this isn't the book where these matters would likely be discussed considering the author has several other memoirs addressing other periods of his life (doesn't he?) In any case, I felt like the President did not discuss enough how his upbringing resulted in his being the man he is today as far as race relations are concerned. Lots of discussion about the relatively tolerant household in which he was raised, but lots of apology at the same time about how racism was ubiquitous at the time and not really perceived by his family or by others as a wrong to be righted. I don't know, I guess I'm rambling here, but I would have liked to have read content along the lines of "and these boyhood experiences shaped my perceptions in such a way that I wanted to make a difference in my public service career" and also I woulda liked to have read about how he connects his religious beliefs with his liberal leanings. Flesh out that relationship a bit more.

Just my 2 cents.

In any event, the book was a quick read and I am very glad I got around to reading it.
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