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Condoleezza Rice's civil rights era memoir goes on sale

From Pamela Sellers, CNN
  • The book recounts Rice's life story from 1950's segregation to her appointment as Secretary of State
  • Rice's father became a Republican to shake Jim Crow harassment
  • Condoleezza Rice reads the audio book version herself

(CNN) -- Condoleezza Rice's personal memoir of her family history hits the book stands Tuesday. In "Extraordinary, Ordinary People," the former U.S. Secretary of State recalls much of her family's time during the Civil Rights era in Birmingham.

Rice has said that she will write a memoir about her eight years in the White House but felt she could not do so until people understood the "personal and implausible journey" she had taken from being born in 1950s segregated Alabama to being named the first female African-American to lead the State Department.

All of this happened, Rice said, due to her parents, John and Angelena Rice.

A guidance counselor/preacher and school teacher respectively, Mr. And Mrs. Rice never made more than $60,000 annually, Rice said.

Despite being raised in a city resistant to quality education for blacks, Rice's parents used their meager resources to provide their only child with piano lessons at 3. She also took French and ballet.

She never learned to swim as a child because Birmingham Public Safety official Eugene "Bull" Connors forbade blacks and whites from sharing public swimming pools.

But Rice's parents refused to let the racial tensions limit her potential.

"Even if I could not have a hamburger at a Woolworth's counter, my mom taught me that I could be President of the United States," Rice said at an author panel during the 10th annual Book Expo America in May.

Rice is a long-time Republican, despite being mentored in international affairs by the Josef Kobel, the father of Democratic Secretary of State, Madeleine Albright, who became the first female Secretary of State, according to Albright's State Department biography.

Rice said her family's introduction into the GOP resulted from a Jim Crow "poll test." The now illegal practice of requiring black voters to answer questions before being permitted to vote, poll tests were "the teeth of Jim Crow," Rice said.

While her mother answered the name of the first U.S. President George Washington correctly and was allowed to vote, her father was asked to identify the number of beans in a jar, she said.

Unable to do so, John Rice later learned of a woman poll worker who would allow him to vote if he aligned himself with the GOP. "And that is how my father became a Republican," she said.

While they did see Rice to on to graduate from Stanford University, and eventually become a provost there, her parents never lived to see her in the White House.

Her mother lost a 15-year-battle with breast cancer in 1985. Her dad died just before George W. Bush was inaugurated.

Still she recalls them showing her a photo of an eight-year-old Condoleezza RIce standing outside the White House where she believes it was grandfather who told her at the time: "You may be standing out here now, but you will be working in there someday."

"Extraordinary, Ordinary People" is available in hardcover, in e-book format and as an audio book read by Condoleezza Rice herself.