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Lifting as We Climb: Black Women's Battle for the Ballot Box

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For African American women, the fight for the right to vote was only one battle. An eye-opening book that tells the important, overlooked story of black women as a force in the suffrage movement--when fellow suffragists did not accept them as equal partners in the struggle. Susan B. Anthony. Elizabeth Cady Stanton. Alice Paul. The Women's Rights Convention at Seneca Falls. For African American women, the fight for the right to vote was only one battle. An eye-opening book that tells the important, overlooked story of black women as a force in the suffrage movement--when fellow suffragists did not accept them as equal partners in the struggle. Susan B. Anthony. Elizabeth Cady Stanton. Alice Paul. The Women's Rights Convention at Seneca Falls. The 1913 Women's March in D.C. When the epic story of the suffrage movement in the United States is told, the most familiar leaders, speakers at meetings, and participants in marches written about or pictured are generally white. The real story isn't monochromatic. Women of color, especially African American women, were fighting for their right to vote and to be treated as full, equal citizens of the United States. Their battlefront wasn't just about gender. African American women had to deal with white abolitionist-suffragists who drew the line at sharing power with their black sisters. They had to overcome deep, exclusionary racial prejudices that were rife in the American suffrage movement. And they had to maintain their dignity--and safety--in a society that tried to keep them in its bottom ranks. Lifting as We Climb is the empowering story of African American women who refused to accept all this. Women in black church groups, black female sororities, black women's improvement societies and social clubs. Women who formed their own black suffrage associations when white-dominated national suffrage groups rejected them. Women like Mary Church Terrell, a founder of the National Association of Colored Women and of the NAACP; or educator-activist Anna Jullia Cooper who championed women getting the vote and a college education; or the crusading journalist Ida B. Wells, a leader in both the suffrage and anti-lynching movements. Author Evette Dionne, a feminist culture writer and the editor-in-chief of Bitch Media, has uncovered an extraordinary and underrepresented history of black women. In her powerful book, she draws an important historical line from abolition to suffrage to civil rights to contemporary young activists--filling in the blanks of the American suffrage story.


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For African American women, the fight for the right to vote was only one battle. An eye-opening book that tells the important, overlooked story of black women as a force in the suffrage movement--when fellow suffragists did not accept them as equal partners in the struggle. Susan B. Anthony. Elizabeth Cady Stanton. Alice Paul. The Women's Rights Convention at Seneca Falls. For African American women, the fight for the right to vote was only one battle. An eye-opening book that tells the important, overlooked story of black women as a force in the suffrage movement--when fellow suffragists did not accept them as equal partners in the struggle. Susan B. Anthony. Elizabeth Cady Stanton. Alice Paul. The Women's Rights Convention at Seneca Falls. The 1913 Women's March in D.C. When the epic story of the suffrage movement in the United States is told, the most familiar leaders, speakers at meetings, and participants in marches written about or pictured are generally white. The real story isn't monochromatic. Women of color, especially African American women, were fighting for their right to vote and to be treated as full, equal citizens of the United States. Their battlefront wasn't just about gender. African American women had to deal with white abolitionist-suffragists who drew the line at sharing power with their black sisters. They had to overcome deep, exclusionary racial prejudices that were rife in the American suffrage movement. And they had to maintain their dignity--and safety--in a society that tried to keep them in its bottom ranks. Lifting as We Climb is the empowering story of African American women who refused to accept all this. Women in black church groups, black female sororities, black women's improvement societies and social clubs. Women who formed their own black suffrage associations when white-dominated national suffrage groups rejected them. Women like Mary Church Terrell, a founder of the National Association of Colored Women and of the NAACP; or educator-activist Anna Jullia Cooper who championed women getting the vote and a college education; or the crusading journalist Ida B. Wells, a leader in both the suffrage and anti-lynching movements. Author Evette Dionne, a feminist culture writer and the editor-in-chief of Bitch Media, has uncovered an extraordinary and underrepresented history of black women. In her powerful book, she draws an important historical line from abolition to suffrage to civil rights to contemporary young activists--filling in the blanks of the American suffrage story.

30 review for Lifting as We Climb: Black Women's Battle for the Ballot Box

  1. 5 out of 5

    Molly Dettmann

    Please make sure this title is in your library and have it front and center on any of those 100th anniversary of the 19th amendment displays. Not every woman got the right to vote after it passed in 1920. This was a much needed read.

  2. 4 out of 5

    Brenda Kahn

    Wow. Again, breaking my "no star" rule to give this five! This book was compelling and infuriating. I recently read The Downstairs Girl. In it were scenes depicting the treatment of Black women and the mc, who was Chinese attempting to join the local women's suffrage meeting in the south. I was reminded of my women's studies classes from so long ago, where I learned about some of this. This cogent narrative connects the dots from Emancipation to the present. I am seething. This book belongs in e Wow. Again, breaking my "no star" rule to give this five! This book was compelling and infuriating. I recently read The Downstairs Girl. In it were scenes depicting the treatment of Black women and the mc, who was Chinese attempting to join the local women's suffrage meeting in the south. I was reminded of my women's studies classes from so long ago, where I learned about some of this. This cogent narrative connects the dots from Emancipation to the present. I am seething. This book belongs in every high school. Adults should read it as well. I am eager to read the finished version and examine the back matter. Don't miss this!

  3. 4 out of 5

    Faith

    "guaranteeing that all people can exercise their right to vote is one of the only ways to ensure that equality continues being a part of America's future." To put it bluntly, Evetre Dionne's LIFTING AS WE CLIMB is a book we desperately need right now. It is a Middle Grade nonfiction volume about the role of Black women in the fight to get all persons the vote. Dionne takes readers from the earliest abolition movement through the battle over race vs gender in determining the focus of suffrage effo "guaranteeing that all people can exercise their right to vote is one of the only ways to ensure that equality continues being a part of America's future." To put it bluntly, Evetre Dionne's LIFTING AS WE CLIMB is a book we desperately need right now. It is a Middle Grade nonfiction volume about the role of Black women in the fight to get all persons the vote. Dionne takes readers from the earliest abolition movement through the battle over race vs gender in determining the focus of suffrage efforts. She chronicles the prevalence of lynching as a motivator for these women and explains why the Voting Rights Act is so important. And she ends with the current efforts to once again restrict voting access through the passage of ID laws and other measures, explaining how these barriers disproportionately effect communities of color in a country that is becoming significantly less white. What I found so powerful about this was not just the wonderful and inspiring fact pages about each major figure (of which there are many), but the frank way in which Dionne discusses some of the horrors faced by these women and their communities. Kids who are of an age to read this text are already exposed to a lot through the prevalence of school shootings and police violence whether or not they have actually experienced it themselves. The choice not to hid the ugly side of events was clearly a purposeful one and gives them the whole picture so that they understand how important the efforts for universal suffrage truly are. I want to put this in the hands of every civics, history, and government teacher to use as a supplemental text in the classroom. I am a historian by training and still learned so much that I had never encountered. I can only hope that the next generation of decision makers will be more informed. Content Warnings for factual explanations of slavery, the separation of families, lynching, racism, and misogyny but keep in mind that these are on par with what students are already encountering in their school texts. Thanks the publisher for providing this for review!

  4. 5 out of 5

    S.

    I'm so glad this book is available for young readers. And for readers interested in black suffragists, even if they aren't young. Before the pandemic reached Oregon, I was reading books about women's suffrage, including a dry academic book about black women suffragists. With the pandemic, my concentration plunged--so the publication of this book was great timing, and not only because 2020 is the 100th anniversary of the 19th Amendment. I'm so glad this book is available for young readers. And for readers interested in black suffragists, even if they aren't young. Before the pandemic reached Oregon, I was reading books about women's suffrage, including a dry academic book about black women suffragists. With the pandemic, my concentration plunged--so the publication of this book was great timing, and not only because 2020 is the 100th anniversary of the 19th Amendment.

  5. 4 out of 5

    Kim

    Dionne has done something amazing with Lifting as We Climb: I STRUGGLED to finish it. Every page has something that sends me off on a learning mission! Not like "do your homework." Like "I want to know more!" This is a narrative nonfiction masterpiece for all ages. Dionne has done something amazing with Lifting as We Climb: I STRUGGLED to finish it. Every page has something that sends me off on a learning mission! Not like "do your homework." Like "I want to know more!" This is a narrative nonfiction masterpiece for all ages.

  6. 5 out of 5

    Mary Lee

    Fascinating, inspiring, educational, important...and depressing that voter suppression CONTINUES. I tagged this adult and YA for the cover-to-cover reading experience, but the index will make this valuable in supplementing picture book biographies about Ida B. Wells, Fannie Hamer, Frederick Douglass and others.

  7. 5 out of 5

    Kristin

    Interesting but read kind of like a text book.

  8. 4 out of 5

    Kristen

    5 Stars! "Suffrage was an important goal for Black women's clubs as a tool to help them redress larger issues, such as abuse in the judicial system, being lynched, and not being able to get ahead financially. Getting the right to vote wasn't the end goal; improving the lives of African Americans was." Lifting As We Climb is the story of the obstacles and challenges that Black women faced (still face!) securing their right to vote. Evette Dionne does a phenomenal job of tying in abolition, suffrag 5 Stars! "Suffrage was an important goal for Black women's clubs as a tool to help them redress larger issues, such as abuse in the judicial system, being lynched, and not being able to get ahead financially. Getting the right to vote wasn't the end goal; improving the lives of African Americans was." Lifting As We Climb is the story of the obstacles and challenges that Black women faced (still face!) securing their right to vote. Evette Dionne does a phenomenal job of tying in abolition, suffrage, and civil rights into a timeline that explores the overlooked history of Black women during these time periods. I would highly recommend this book to anyone wanting to learn more about the important roles that Black women played in history outside of the white-washed perspective that if often seen in school history books.

  9. 4 out of 5

    Stephanie Bolton

    From the battle for emancipation to the fight for the 19th Amendment, Jim Crow, and beyond Lifting as We Climb highlights the struggles and victories of courageous Black women fighting to have a voice in their government. Not only does Dionne highlight courageous women that are often overlooked by mainstream history, but she also shows how Black women were so often discriminated against by White Suffragists and male Black activists. Overall the book is beautifully written and researched. A subje From the battle for emancipation to the fight for the 19th Amendment, Jim Crow, and beyond Lifting as We Climb highlights the struggles and victories of courageous Black women fighting to have a voice in their government. Not only does Dionne highlight courageous women that are often overlooked by mainstream history, but she also shows how Black women were so often discriminated against by White Suffragists and male Black activists. Overall the book is beautifully written and researched. A subject with such a wide scope can be unwieldy and Dionne manages it with grace. The use of “boxes” to give more real estate, background, and context to people, groups, and events that fell outside the narrative really deepened the reading experience, though the placement and number (especially in the first chapter) sometimes disrupted the narrative. A must buy for my collection. Would recommend to students across all divisions.

  10. 4 out of 5

    Alicia

    Strong YA book about black women’s contributions to women’s suffrage and the unique situations they were placed in that were racially and socially unacceptable. The flow worked and the biographical profiles added a layer to the storytelling as it walks through history- the kind that no one gets to read in the textbook.

  11. 4 out of 5

    Judy Ripke

    I learned so much from this book. There were so many black women fighting not just for the vote, but for fair treatment of all black citizens. I need to read books like this, as my school history texts sure did not tell the whole story.

  12. 4 out of 5

    Relena_reads

    This is an important corrective to the lack of Black Women in the history books. Even women who are covered, like Mary McLeod-Bethune, become full people here. It was a disconcerting listen as an audiobook, as chapters are titled for women, but I learned how to listen to it.

  13. 5 out of 5

    Nancy Miller

    Really looking forward to using this with my seniors when we discuss voting!

  14. 4 out of 5

    Deana Metzke

    A consice read that is full of little known history. A good resource to learn more about women like Ida Wells-Barnett and Sojourner Truth.

  15. 5 out of 5

    Halle Kathleen

    All the heroines missing from your gaslit history textbooks can be found between the bindings of this book

  16. 5 out of 5

    Samantha

    If you thought that the right to vote was fought only by white women, think again. This book will introduce you to the many black women who fought for that right, before the 19th amendment and afterward. Dionne examines the intersection of getting Black men the vote vs white women (or all women, or all people), and shows the way voting for people of color was suppressed after Reconstruction, through the Civil Rights era, and into the present day. An important book for people to read. Purely on a If you thought that the right to vote was fought only by white women, think again. This book will introduce you to the many black women who fought for that right, before the 19th amendment and afterward. Dionne examines the intersection of getting Black men the vote vs white women (or all women, or all people), and shows the way voting for people of color was suppressed after Reconstruction, through the Civil Rights era, and into the present day. An important book for people to read. Purely on a personal level--I need to remind myself to read sidebars after reading the full text. The formatting of this book was a little hard for me, especially with the black boxes with small white text. I wonder how the audio handles it.

  17. 5 out of 5

    Sandy Brehl

    The first chapter title sets the stage for the rest of the book: NOT THE HISTORY YOU LEARNED IN SCHOOL, but also underscores the horrific irony that asks the essential American question: WHY? WHY haven't we all been taught about these necessary, empowering, heartbreaking and inspiring Black women who overcame the horrific obstacles and threats and countless ways America (White America, Male America, Power America) tried to deny them their rights and humanity. Well, it is all here, to be taught and The first chapter title sets the stage for the rest of the book: NOT THE HISTORY YOU LEARNED IN SCHOOL, but also underscores the horrific irony that asks the essential American question: WHY? WHY haven't we all been taught about these necessary, empowering, heartbreaking and inspiring Black women who overcame the horrific obstacles and threats and countless ways America (White America, Male America, Power America) tried to deny them their rights and humanity. Well, it is all here, to be taught and shared and discussed. Get on it, stay on it, and begin to undo the damage of racism and mysogyny. Please.

  18. 5 out of 5

    Scott Flanary

    A compact, thorough summary of voting rights from our country’s inception through 2018. I wasn’t aware this book was written for middle-grade readers until afterward, and this explains the odd editorial choices: mixed font sizes, abrupt insertions of civil rights leaders’ biographies, and verbose language. I loved the attention placed on key figures who pushed equality forward! I listened to the author speak at Portland’s Book Festival and she was very engaging and passionate about her work. You A compact, thorough summary of voting rights from our country’s inception through 2018. I wasn’t aware this book was written for middle-grade readers until afterward, and this explains the odd editorial choices: mixed font sizes, abrupt insertions of civil rights leaders’ biographies, and verbose language. I loved the attention placed on key figures who pushed equality forward! I listened to the author speak at Portland’s Book Festival and she was very engaging and passionate about her work. You can tell she put a lot of time into piecing together history in this easy-to-digest book.

  19. 4 out of 5

    Julie

    This book is fantastic!!! It's written clearly and manages to squeeze a ton of information into a small book while not being at all overwhelming. It's *perfect* for ages 9+ as it is not graphic while still being honest about the horrible realities of racism against black women. And while it's clear about the racism black women have faced (and face), it is more about a celebration of the work and love given by America's black suffragettes. Cannot recommend highly enough! Please read and read with This book is fantastic!!! It's written clearly and manages to squeeze a ton of information into a small book while not being at all overwhelming. It's *perfect* for ages 9+ as it is not graphic while still being honest about the horrible realities of racism against black women. And while it's clear about the racism black women have faced (and face), it is more about a celebration of the work and love given by America's black suffragettes. Cannot recommend highly enough! Please read and read with your children!

  20. 4 out of 5

    Samantha Ania

    This is powerful and frustrating. I grew up idolizing white suffragette's and it's criminal that I wasn't taught all the rest. The black women who fought alongside them, the racism the white suffragettes chose, and the intersectionality of Jim Crow and poverty that the black suffragette's had to contend with. For them it had to always be about race AND gender. Voting rights were tied up in all of their civil rights and disenfranchisement. And instead of backing their sisters, most of the white w This is powerful and frustrating. I grew up idolizing white suffragette's and it's criminal that I wasn't taught all the rest. The black women who fought alongside them, the racism the white suffragettes chose, and the intersectionality of Jim Crow and poverty that the black suffragette's had to contend with. For them it had to always be about race AND gender. Voting rights were tied up in all of their civil rights and disenfranchisement. And instead of backing their sisters, most of the white women turned their backs. I'm glad to learn about them and their struggle and glad the epilogue chronicles the way voting rights are stripped from black people right now, currently.

  21. 5 out of 5

    Ari (Books. Libraries. Also, cats.)

    This is an excellent YA nonfiction book that I'll definitely be purchasing for my library's collection & recommending to teen readers! Evette Dionne makes the subject super accessible for teens and highlights so many important Black women activists that have been left out of traditional US History curriculums. This should be required reading in US History classes. This is an excellent NF title, not just for teens, but for adult readers who have difficulty getting into NF. It's fairly short, has a This is an excellent YA nonfiction book that I'll definitely be purchasing for my library's collection & recommending to teen readers! Evette Dionne makes the subject super accessible for teens and highlights so many important Black women activists that have been left out of traditional US History curriculums. This should be required reading in US History classes. This is an excellent NF title, not just for teens, but for adult readers who have difficulty getting into NF. It's fairly short, has a strong & engaging voice, and is an accessible read. I listened to the audiobook, which was a nice short length at just under 5 hours, and highly recommend that format.

  22. 5 out of 5

    Libriar

    An important book that belongs in every middle and high school library. It's also a great entry point for adults to learn more about the obstacles that were placed in the way of Black women - often by white suffragists - to fight for their right to vote. The only reason that I'm giving it 4 stars is because the individual biographies of each woman broke up the text which made the book read more like a text book than narrative nonfiction. An important book that belongs in every middle and high school library. It's also a great entry point for adults to learn more about the obstacles that were placed in the way of Black women - often by white suffragists - to fight for their right to vote. The only reason that I'm giving it 4 stars is because the individual biographies of each woman broke up the text which made the book read more like a text book than narrative nonfiction.

  23. 4 out of 5

    Mike

    The title of the book speaks for itself. Concise, thorough, thoughtful, and easy to follow. This short book is about the long history of American Black Women drive for full rights to vote. What is taking it so long? White racism and fears...

  24. 5 out of 5

    Rebekah

    I appreciate this book for chronicling the journey of black women to get the right to vote and the difficult process of dealing with racist white women suffragists. One day soon I hope this history can get integrated into history books in classrooms because yeah, I never learned about any of this. This book however is on the drier side of nonfiction, and I wasn't always an engaged reader. I appreciate this book for chronicling the journey of black women to get the right to vote and the difficult process of dealing with racist white women suffragists. One day soon I hope this history can get integrated into history books in classrooms because yeah, I never learned about any of this. This book however is on the drier side of nonfiction, and I wasn't always an engaged reader.

  25. 4 out of 5

    Amy Lafleur Meyers

    I received this advanced readers copy from Netgalley, in exchange for honest feedback. In this year commemorating the 19th amendment, there’s a lot of talk around big names of the women’s suffrage movement, people such as Susan B. Anthony and Elizabeth Cady Stanton. However, have you heard of Ida B. Wells-Barnett, Mary Church Terrell, or Sarah Mapps Douglass? Evette Dionne tells the much lesser known, but important story of black women's fight for suffrage and rights. There's so much I can say abo I received this advanced readers copy from Netgalley, in exchange for honest feedback. In this year commemorating the 19th amendment, there’s a lot of talk around big names of the women’s suffrage movement, people such as Susan B. Anthony and Elizabeth Cady Stanton. However, have you heard of Ida B. Wells-Barnett, Mary Church Terrell, or Sarah Mapps Douglass? Evette Dionne tells the much lesser known, but important story of black women's fight for suffrage and rights. There's so much I can say about about this book. It was very informative, as Dionne traces black women's fight for rights against US history and the women's rights movement. Black women faced significant barriers to the vote from slavery, racism, and their sex. Dionne tells their story in narrative form with photographs of people and places, as well as many sidebars highlighting women suffragists’ bios and important statistics and facts, I studied history in college with a special interest in women's history, yet I learned from this book. Not only is it informative, but it's also very readable history. Dionne caught me right from the 1st chapter in which she talked about the lines of people who put their “I voted” stickers on Susan B. Anthony’s grave on Election Day. While Anthony deserves the love, many black suffragists have been ignored and forgotten. Dionne's audience is roughly grades 5-8, middle school, but I would recommend this title to anyone interested in learning a more complete view of women's history. It's a compelling read and there's a lot to learn for someone of any age. I looking forward to promoting this one, especially once we get back in the library. I've already recommended it to several colleagues. It’s a timely read against the backdrop of the 100th anniversary of the 19th amendment and with its connections to current issues such as voter suppression. The fight for universal suffrage is far from over.

  26. 5 out of 5

    Jenn

    I learned so much from this book. I have read a few books about the Suffragette Movement and a few about the Civil Rights Movement, but this is the first book I have found that addresses the struggle black women have had to get the vote. I appreciate that the author did an amazing job of show all sides of the problem.

  27. 4 out of 5

    Erikka

    An informative and quick read nicely sandwiched between the centennial of suffrage and the 2020 election. I enjoyed the vignettes about the various Black suffragettes and how the information transitioned nicely from the original suffrage work into efforts to fight voter suppression today. The dismantling of the VRA is one of the worst things that’s ever happened in civil rights history, but I didn’t realize what a setback it is until I read this and saw how dramatically it disenfranchises Black An informative and quick read nicely sandwiched between the centennial of suffrage and the 2020 election. I enjoyed the vignettes about the various Black suffragettes and how the information transitioned nicely from the original suffrage work into efforts to fight voter suppression today. The dismantling of the VRA is one of the worst things that’s ever happened in civil rights history, but I didn’t realize what a setback it is until I read this and saw how dramatically it disenfranchises Black voters. It is despicable that so many people fought for so long to simply be able to have a voice, only to have it ripped away by selfish jerks that don’t want to have to share power. I wish I could tell our entire government to get over themselves and move with the times. I would highly recommend this for junior high or young high school as a nonfiction read or for quality research for a school project.

  28. 5 out of 5

    Samantha Neeb

    Thank you #NetGalley for the ARC of #LiftingAsWeClimb. This very powerful book is well written about a history that I barely knew, especially because I'm not an American. This book needs to be read by everyone to show the injustice in history, but also TODAY. We are still climbing, and this book will help everyone see that! The one issue I had with it was a formatting issue. I really enjoyed the biographical asides, but I found that it left the book feeling choppy because it would break up a sent Thank you #NetGalley for the ARC of #LiftingAsWeClimb. This very powerful book is well written about a history that I barely knew, especially because I'm not an American. This book needs to be read by everyone to show the injustice in history, but also TODAY. We are still climbing, and this book will help everyone see that! The one issue I had with it was a formatting issue. I really enjoyed the biographical asides, but I found that it left the book feeling choppy because it would break up a sentence mid-thought. This may not be as big of an issue reading a physical copy, but I felt it hurt the flow on the eBook copy.

  29. 4 out of 5

    Christine

    This was a great, comprehensive look into the history of women's suffrage and how black women truly shaped and influenced the movement in significant ways that have been largely ignored by the history books. There are profiles of important individuals throughout, giving insight into the lives of several women. Highly recommended for middle grade history lovers! Thanks to NetGalley for the ARC. This was a great, comprehensive look into the history of women's suffrage and how black women truly shaped and influenced the movement in significant ways that have been largely ignored by the history books. There are profiles of important individuals throughout, giving insight into the lives of several women. Highly recommended for middle grade history lovers! Thanks to NetGalley for the ARC.

  30. 4 out of 5

    Joyce

    A book that belongs in every library. An education in the black women's struggle for equality, especially voting rights. Amazing women whose beliefs, persistence, and dedication lead to their success. Every female should be aware of this history in our country. An excellent read. A book that belongs in every library. An education in the black women's struggle for equality, especially voting rights. Amazing women whose beliefs, persistence, and dedication lead to their success. Every female should be aware of this history in our country. An excellent read.

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