The Ditchdigger's Daughters: A Black Family's Astonishing Success Story


This memoir describes how, with seemingly unfailing energy and determination, Donald Thornton, working two jobs, saw each of his six daughters obtain an education and become established in a successful career. Using their musical talent, the Thornton girls gave performances for a number of years to help finance their schooling. Donald and his wife, Asker, gave their children the strength to achieve their goals in the face of hardships, not the least of which were racial and gender discrimination. Reader Fran Washington injects a great deal of feeling into the authors' words, bringing out a whole range of emotions, from joy to anguish. This is a warm-hearted, affectionate memoir that emphasizes the importance of family ties.

The remarkable power of family values as articulated by an uneducated black man and his wife is played out in this loving memoir. Thornton is one of five daughters born to a laborer in a New Jersey shore town who was almost obsessed with the importance of education for his children and the nurturance of their talents. He strictly monitored their musical training, scrimping and wheedling where necessary to pay for their lessons. Eventually the Thornton Sisters Band was formed?a family enterprise whose financial success became the source of the daughters' college tuition. Although only two of the girls fulfilled their father's dream that they become doctors, all of them have successful careers. This picture by Thornton and Coudert (Advice from a Failure) of a black man's single-minded devotion to his family is a tribute to an extraordinary father who transcended racial prejudice to raise appreciative daughters to be independent women.

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Yvonne S. Thornton, M.D.
ISBN 10:
Publication Date:
March 01, 2008