He Included Me
The Autobiography of Sarah Rice

Transcribed and Edited by Louise Westling

The extraordinary true-life account of an African American domestic worker in the early twentieth century South


"In homespun words, strong-minded Rice, born in 1909 in rural Alabama, bears witness to her hard life as a black woman. . . . Rice's comments on social and racial issues, especially when based directly on her experiences as an employee of white families, are instructive; sensitive yet objective, she proves able to reckon with differences, not just take sides. She seems always to say exactly what she means. With the aid of Westling, Rice makes a welcome contribution to the informal history of black Americans."
Publishers Weekly

"This oral history, artfully edited by Louise Westling, allows Rice to speak for herself, describing life in rural Alabama, her life as a school teacher, her two failed marriages, and, finally, the happiness she achieved with her third husband. Viewing her life with a sharp intelligence, always frank, compassionate, and informed by a deep religious faith, Rice offers an autobiography that often reads with the narrative sweep of a novel."
Library Journal

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A rare first-person account of life in the twentieth-century South, He Included Me weaves together the story of a black family—eight children reared in rural Alabama, their mother a schoolteacher, their father a minister—and the emerging self-portrait of a woman determined, like her parents, to look ahead.

Sarah Rice recalls her mother's hymn of thanks—"He Included Me"—when God showed her a way to feed her family, and hears again her mother's quiet words, "It's no disgrace to work. It's an honor to make an honest dollar," spoken when her children were embarrassed that she took in white people's laundry. Rice speaks, finally, of the determination, faith, and pride that carried her through life.

In a document that spans more than three-quarters of the twentieth century, He Included Me presents the voice of a single woman whose life was rich in complexity, deep in suffering and joy; yet it also speaks for the many black women who have worked and struggled in the rural South and always looked ahead.

Page count: 200 pp.
Trim size: 6 x 9


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Sarah Rice (1909–2006) lived and worked in Alabama and Florida, holding jobs as a teacher and a domestic maid and cook. She was also active throughout her life in state and local church activities. Rice told the story of her life to Louise H. Westling, the daughter of one of her former employers and now a professor emerita of English at the University of Oregon.