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Born to slaves in 1862, Ida B. Wells became a fearless antilynching crusader, women’s rights advocate, and journalist. Wells’s refusal to accept any compromise on racial inequality caused her to be labeled a “dangerous radical” in her day but made her a model for later civil rights activists as well as a powerful witness to the troubled racial politics of her era. In the r Born to slaves in 1862, Ida B. Wells became a fearless antilynching crusader, women’s rights advocate, and journalist. Wells’s refusal to accept any compromise on racial inequality caused her to be labeled a “dangerous radical” in her day but made her a model for later civil rights activists as well as a powerful witness to the troubled racial politics of her era. In the richly illustrated To Tell the Truth Freely, the historian Mia Bay vividly captures Wells’s legacy and life, from her childhood in Mississippi to her early career in late nineteenth-century Memphis and her later life in Progressive-era Chicago.   Wells’s fight for racial and gender justice began in 1883, when she was a young schoolteacher who traveled to her rural schoolhouse by rail. Forcibly ejected from her seat on a train one day on account of her race, Wells immediately sued the railroad. Though she ultimately lost her case on appeal in the Supreme Court of Tennessee, the published account of her legal challenge to Jim Crow changed her life, propelling her into a career as an outspoken journalist and social activist. Also a fierce critic of the racial violence that marked her era, Wells went on to launch a crusade against lynching that took her across the United States and eventually to Britain. Though she helped found the NAACP in 1910 after resettling in Chicago, she would not remain a member for long. Always militant in her quest for racial justice, Wells rejected not only Booker T. Washington’s accommodationism but also the moderating influence of white reformers within the early NAACP. The life of Ida B. Wells and her enduring achievements are dramatically recovered in Mia Bay’s To Tell the Truth Freely.


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Born to slaves in 1862, Ida B. Wells became a fearless antilynching crusader, women’s rights advocate, and journalist. Wells’s refusal to accept any compromise on racial inequality caused her to be labeled a “dangerous radical” in her day but made her a model for later civil rights activists as well as a powerful witness to the troubled racial politics of her era. In the r Born to slaves in 1862, Ida B. Wells became a fearless antilynching crusader, women’s rights advocate, and journalist. Wells’s refusal to accept any compromise on racial inequality caused her to be labeled a “dangerous radical” in her day but made her a model for later civil rights activists as well as a powerful witness to the troubled racial politics of her era. In the richly illustrated To Tell the Truth Freely, the historian Mia Bay vividly captures Wells’s legacy and life, from her childhood in Mississippi to her early career in late nineteenth-century Memphis and her later life in Progressive-era Chicago.   Wells’s fight for racial and gender justice began in 1883, when she was a young schoolteacher who traveled to her rural schoolhouse by rail. Forcibly ejected from her seat on a train one day on account of her race, Wells immediately sued the railroad. Though she ultimately lost her case on appeal in the Supreme Court of Tennessee, the published account of her legal challenge to Jim Crow changed her life, propelling her into a career as an outspoken journalist and social activist. Also a fierce critic of the racial violence that marked her era, Wells went on to launch a crusade against lynching that took her across the United States and eventually to Britain. Though she helped found the NAACP in 1910 after resettling in Chicago, she would not remain a member for long. Always militant in her quest for racial justice, Wells rejected not only Booker T. Washington’s accommodationism but also the moderating influence of white reformers within the early NAACP. The life of Ida B. Wells and her enduring achievements are dramatically recovered in Mia Bay’s To Tell the Truth Freely.

30 review for To Tell the Truth Freely: The Life of Ida B. Wells

  1. 5 out of 5

    robin friedman

    A Civil Rights Pioneer Ida B. Wells (1862 - 1931) was one of the first individuals to expose and oppose the lynching that became prevalent in the South and elsewhere in the years following Reconstruction. In the latter part of her life and for many years thereafter, Wells's life and accomplishments were in danger of being overlooked and marginalized. With the publication of her autobiography, "Crusade for Justice" (1971) and of her other writings together with several biographies, Ida Wells has s A Civil Rights Pioneer Ida B. Wells (1862 - 1931) was one of the first individuals to expose and oppose the lynching that became prevalent in the South and elsewhere in the years following Reconstruction. In the latter part of her life and for many years thereafter, Wells's life and accomplishments were in danger of being overlooked and marginalized. With the publication of her autobiography, "Crusade for Justice" (1971) and of her other writings together with several biographies, Ida Wells has since the 1970s been receiving overdue recognition. Mia Bay's recent biography, "To Tell the Truth Freely: The Life of Ida B. Wells" (2009) offers a solid if dry account of Wells's life and accomplishments. Bay, associate professor of history at Rutgers University, is the associate director of Rutgers's Center for Race and Ethnicity and the author of "The White Image in the Black Mind: African-American Ideas About White People, 1830- 1925". Wells's parents were slaves when she was born at Holly Springs, Mississippi. With the end of the Civil War, her parents became activists in support of Reconstruction, which became the dominant influence on her life. When Wells was 16, her mother and father and two siblings died in a Yellow Fever epidemic. Wells became a rural schoolteacher to support her remaining younger sisters. She attended college sporadically but was expelled from Rusk College in 1881 for reasons which remain obscure. As a young woman, Wells moved to Memphis where she taught school and gradually found her way to writing and journalism using the name "Iola". Wells also filed a lawsuit against a railroad for forcing her to sit in a segregated, Jim Crow car. She ultimately lost her case on appeal. The defining moment of Wells's life occurred in 1892 when three male acquaintances in Memphis were lynched. Wells' investigated the lynchings and similar occurrences in the South and wrote about them in her paper. Wells rejected the claim of the apologists for lynching that the practice resulted from the rape of white women by black men. Wells wrote that lynching was instead a power move designed to keep African Americans in fear and servitude. But Southerners found particularly inflammatory Wells's findings that when sexual relationships between black men and white women occurred, these relationships tended to be clandestine, but consensual. She was forced to leave Memphis and lost all her property. Moving to New York City, Wells became both famous and notorious. She worked with Frederick Douglass in protesting the exclusion of African Americans from participation or recognition in the 1893 Chicago Worlds Fair. She prepared a pamphlet for distribution during the Fair documenting the evils of lynching. Wells also made two trips to England where she was instrumental in organizing an anti-lynching society among the successors of the British abolitionist movement. Following the Worlds Fair, Wells remained in Chicago and married a successful attorney, Ferdinand Barnett, with whom she had four children. She remained politically active for the rest of her life, but her fame was eclipsed by Booker T. Washington and then by W.E.B. DuBois. Wells helped found the NAACP, but her abrasive, confrontational and independent personality, together with her gender, denied her a leadership role in this or other national civil rights organizations. But she continued her crusade against lynching and was an activist in protecting the rights of the many African Americans pouring into Chicago as part of the Great Migration. Bay offers a thorough and a sympathetic portrayal of Wells which draws on the autobiography and on Wells's other writings. Bay is good in showing Wells's relationships to other African American and feminist leaders, including Douglass, Washington, DuBois, and Susan B. Anthony, who counseled Wells against her marriage. Bay also writes with insight about how Wells's activist approach to African American rights was at odds with Booker T. Washington's accomodationist approach and with the subsequent approach of the NAACP which sought to vindicate African American civil rights through litigation and through legislation. Bay emphasizes, as she should, the role of gender in denying Wells a position of leadership within the African American community. But Bay's own text makes clear how tough and difficult Wells could be, even with her allies. Wells's own irascibility and temper seem at least as responsible for her independent status as was her gender. I learned a great deal about Wells from this book, but I sensed a fire in the woman which Bay does not entirely capture. The book is well-documented and footnoted but lacks a bibliography. Bay's book is effective in telling the story of an inspiring American who deserves to be remembered and admired. Robin Friedman

  2. 4 out of 5

    Phylicia Luckett

    Ida B. Wells story is so under-rated. Growing up, I heard very little about Ida B. Wells but her story is definitely a must-read. She fought in times when women didn't even have a voice and rights. She fought for justice for both people of color and women. She build and helped build some of the biggest organizations that are still around for people of color and women today. She did all this while raising a family. Reading this, I was shocked about the lack of credit and support she received then Ida B. Wells story is so under-rated. Growing up, I heard very little about Ida B. Wells but her story is definitely a must-read. She fought in times when women didn't even have a voice and rights. She fought for justice for both people of color and women. She build and helped build some of the biggest organizations that are still around for people of color and women today. She did all this while raising a family. Reading this, I was shocked about the lack of credit and support she received then and quite honestly it upset me but here we are now reading and hearing her words, words of her daughter, and Mia Bay's. Mia Bay did her justice. Again, I recommend this book, to women, women of color, and everyone.

  3. 4 out of 5

    Jess

    I'm not a huge fan of biographies, but the legacy of Ida B Wells is so important and under-reported in the broader histories of civil rights that I wanted to know more. Her pioneering use of investigative reporting and media analysis to fuel her anti-lynching campaign is critical to how we still understand extrajudicial killings of black people in America. If someone wanted to make a very long and sporadically entertaining video, the faces I made all all the shaking of my head as I read about ma I'm not a huge fan of biographies, but the legacy of Ida B Wells is so important and under-reported in the broader histories of civil rights that I wanted to know more. Her pioneering use of investigative reporting and media analysis to fuel her anti-lynching campaign is critical to how we still understand extrajudicial killings of black people in America. If someone wanted to make a very long and sporadically entertaining video, the faces I made all all the shaking of my head as I read about male usurpation of her work and political power, and the constant and annoying betrayals by white feminists would be a decent candidate. The book was fairly dry and ends rather abruptly, but it's a pretty good overview of her struggles and accomplishments.

  4. 5 out of 5

    Sarah

    Fantastic bio of wells-Barnett. Should be great for my intro af-am class. Anxious to see what my students think of it.

  5. 4 out of 5

    Kimberle Madden

    Excellent research put into this

  6. 5 out of 5

    Xiomara

    A great autobiography by an amazing historian

  7. 4 out of 5

    Peter

    Ida Wells was barely in her thirties when she began her campaign against lynch law in the south. Born to slaves in 1862, she came of age concurrently with the collapse of Reconstruction and the betrayal of southern black people by the federal government. After her parents died when she was sixteen, she took charge of raising her siblings and became a schoolteacher and then a journalist in Memphis. It was after a race riot — for most of American history, “race riot” meant white pogroms directed a Ida Wells was barely in her thirties when she began her campaign against lynch law in the south. Born to slaves in 1862, she came of age concurrently with the collapse of Reconstruction and the betrayal of southern black people by the federal government. After her parents died when she was sixteen, she took charge of raising her siblings and became a schoolteacher and then a journalist in Memphis. It was after a race riot — for most of American history, “race riot” meant white pogroms directed at black people and other people of color — and lynching of three black men there that she began the work that would define her legacy. As the title of this biography indicates, Wells did something simple but courageous in response to the epidemic of lynching: she did basic reporting and told the truth. Her reporting laid the foundation for what is now the basic historical understanding of lynching as a social phenomenon. Southern white leaders declared that lynching was necessary to protect white women from depraved black rapists. Ida Wells looked into lynchings and found that in only a minority of cases were the victims even accused of rape. Moreover, she reported that many of those who were accused of rape were in fact involved in illicit but consensual interracial relationships, typically initiated by white women. And of course, the rape defense only went one way- no one, black or white, was ever lynched, barely anyone was ever brought to law, for sexually assaulting a black woman. Wells’s conclusions were commonsensical and strike the reader as quite “modern:” lynching, like rape, is about power, not sex, and specifically about reenforcing white supremacy by terrorizing black people. She called for both federal anti-lynching legislation and armed black self defense in response. In the 1890s when she began her antilynching crusade, this was controversial on a number of levels. Southern whites were offended and she was publicly threatened with torture and dismemberment by “respectable” newspapers in Memphis, forcing her to leave the south for New York and then Chicago. She struck a chord with black readers, who made her for a time the most well-known black woman in the country, and made a number of allies, including Frederick Douglass in his later years. But many established reformists, both black and white, had issues with her. She was feisty and not afraid to fight. This upset established gender norms of the time, especially for black women, who were under extra pressure to “prove” their femininity. People (like Susan B. Anthony) criticized her for being unmarried in her thirties and then criticized her for carrying on the work once she married lawyer and reformer Frederick Barnett. She ran afoul of Booker T. Washington, unofficial leader of black America at the time, who insisted that political agitation for his community’s rights was pointless and who punished black figures who disagreed. Wells allied with more radical figures like W.E.B. Du Bois and helped found the NAACP, but quickly found herself — a woman without a college degree — out of step with the increasingly professionalized world of early twentieth century reform politics. In general, Wells’s life certainly did not lack for incident, but it’s arc isn’t exactly the stuff of Hollywood. There was no big confrontation or victory, either with the forces of lynching or with her fairweather friends in the reform movement. She kept plugging along until she died in 1930, mostly removed from the national stage after World War One but staying active in Chicago reform and antiracist politics. Mostly, this is a record of Wells writing and giving speeches, getting polite (or not so polite) reactions, and then the world going on it’s merry way, unfortunately. Historian Mia Bay does a fine job putting Wells in her context, succinctly explaining things like the history and full extent of lynch law, Victorian social codes constraining women, and post-Reconstruction black politics. This is a highly readable as well as commendably complete book. Wells is an admirable figure by any fair reckoning, but it is a little concerning to think how much she echoes our own time: a figure with a very correct analysis but no way to implement it. ****

  8. 5 out of 5

    Faith Crim

    Ida B. Wells' story begins when her parents were freed from slavery. Her mother went with her to Sunday school and church receiving a Christian education. She was out of town when both her parents and infant sibling died of disease. She being the oldest sibling, took care of her younger siblings. Wells taught herself and became a teacher. She then took an interest in writing and became a journalist and newspaper editor as "Iola." A terrible lynching of three black men she knew prompted her to r Ida B. Wells' story begins when her parents were freed from slavery. Her mother went with her to Sunday school and church receiving a Christian education. She was out of town when both her parents and infant sibling died of disease. She being the oldest sibling, took care of her younger siblings. Wells taught herself and became a teacher. She then took an interest in writing and became a journalist and newspaper editor as "Iola." A terrible lynching of three black men she knew prompted her to research lynching. She made appalling discoveries and began her "antilynching crusade." Ida did not back down from writing about the truth which forced her to leave her hometown from a white mob. Fredrick Douglass became one of her long-lasting friends as they verbally fought against the oppression of a white man's government. Ida dropped teaching altogether and traveled internationally, gaining a significant amount of support from Great Britain. She helped found the NAACP and the NACW along with several other antilynching campaigns. Many people who were for her cause denied her important leadership roles. Wells married Ferdinand Barnett having four children after the two worked on a pamphlet together for the World's Columbian Exposition. Ida left the NAACP and the NACW after numerous occasions of being restricted for her either being a woman or being black. Her popularity declined although Ida remained an activist for anti-lynching laws and voting rights until her death in March of 1931. Even though she was not highly credited for her work, Ida B. Wells- Barnett introduced new ideas that would help groups like the NAACP and the NACW change American society. The theme would be that is critical that put effort into making an influence credit or no credit. "Wells- Barnett..., leaving her both eclipsed and abandoned by civil rights organizations she had helped create- such as the NAACP" (Bay, 316). I would recommend this text to all people. It has evidence from credible sources. Generally, Ida's story should be recognized, not lost to history.

  9. 4 out of 5

    RYCJ

    It was tough staying focused on the underlying message of Ida's life work and mission without getting caught up on the manifest of heartless assaults this pioneer crusaded against, and the countless black men, women and babies she crusaded for. This book certainly is not easy on the spirit, despite none of this being new information. However, after digesting three quarters of the book, recording pages upon pages of notes, it became patently clear why it defies commentary to debate or discuss in It was tough staying focused on the underlying message of Ida's life work and mission without getting caught up on the manifest of heartless assaults this pioneer crusaded against, and the countless black men, women and babies she crusaded for. This book certainly is not easy on the spirit, despite none of this being new information. However, after digesting three quarters of the book, recording pages upon pages of notes, it became patently clear why it defies commentary to debate or discuss in any manner these barbaric atrocities no civilized society would tolerate. That aside, this historical time-piece does provide important vignettes; such as the historical description of the political parties (republicans vs democrats); and the birth of a number of newspapers and its founding principles supported by the headlines and stories it published. There as well are a number of laws cited to glean new information. For me, personally, the Comstock Law was news to me. I came across a few books I now want to read, too. Overall, I applaud Ida, and Ms. Bay, for carrying this biography forward. Ida's mission was clear. Her passion uncooked. And her efforts documenting unfathomable barbaric cruelties, taking her message and mission wide and far… along with the personal assistance she provided to many in distress, often from her own purse, I find irreproachable!

  10. 5 out of 5

    Beverlee

    Ida Wells-Barnett’s life story is one of many examples of intersectionality between being African American and a woman. I think it’s especially compelling because her life took place before feminism was commonly known as such and I don’t think Ida Wells-Barnett would’ve liked being called a feminist, especially if that definition is based on mainstream meaning. This book was informative on what made Ida Wells-Barnett tick. She always followed her heart & fought for justice and equality for her p Ida Wells-Barnett’s life story is one of many examples of intersectionality between being African American and a woman. I think it’s especially compelling because her life took place before feminism was commonly known as such and I don’t think Ida Wells-Barnett would’ve liked being called a feminist, especially if that definition is based on mainstream meaning. This book was informative on what made Ida Wells-Barnett tick. She always followed her heart & fought for justice and equality for her people. Obviously this was a huge sacrifice emotionally & mentally and my respect for her is permanent. 3 stars because while Wells-Barnett had a fascinating life story, I didn’t feel a strong emotional connection while reading. The writing isn’t bad, it just reads more as a textbook than a life story. What I found interesting: 1. The clash between Wells-Barnett (often viewed as an agitator) and traditionalists such as Mary Church Terrell and Booker T. Washington. 2. Continuing on that idea, how Wells-Barnett laid the foundation for protest tradition yet she gets no credit for it because she was an unapologetic Black woman leader.

  11. 4 out of 5

    Amy

    The history detailed in this book is so important and often overlooked in American textbooks. The struggle of post-slavery Blacks in America, the restrictions put on women of the era and especially the struggle of Black women to find a place in a post-slavery society, the disputes among the Black community about how to approach gaining their deserved rights...there is so much here. The book does an excellent job of placing Wells within the occurrences of her day, and it taught me an embarrassing The history detailed in this book is so important and often overlooked in American textbooks. The struggle of post-slavery Blacks in America, the restrictions put on women of the era and especially the struggle of Black women to find a place in a post-slavery society, the disputes among the Black community about how to approach gaining their deserved rights...there is so much here. The book does an excellent job of placing Wells within the occurrences of her day, and it taught me an embarrassing amount. Reading this book during the current state of American politics, it is impossible not to see the parallels between the lynch mobs of Wells' day and the people who invaded the U.S. Capitol. The need to exert their power, feeling they are above the law- this is not something new. Even the reframing and outright lying happened over a century ago. A very important read, especially now.

  12. 4 out of 5

    Gemini

    I had heard the name over & over again & it finally dawned on me to find a book to read about her. I was shocked to find that there was so much about her life that I had no idea about. This book had so many different things about her life that were eye opening. Learning about the various places that she lived & how she had a family as well. The issues she faced was unbelievable & so unfortunate. Seeing how she became friends w/ certain people yet others she was not inline with was also surprisin I had heard the name over & over again & it finally dawned on me to find a book to read about her. I was shocked to find that there was so much about her life that I had no idea about. This book had so many different things about her life that were eye opening. Learning about the various places that she lived & how she had a family as well. The issues she faced was unbelievable & so unfortunate. Seeing how she became friends w/ certain people yet others she was not inline with was also surprising. The amount of people she inspired during all her travels was amazing. The way she stood up for women & Black women especially was not something everyone was able to do. So yeah it's worth the read.

  13. 4 out of 5

    Abigail Hicks

    This book depicts an incredible story told with insight and grace, and for me it provides an opportunity to flesh out my education as a white southerner. I was born and raised in the metro Atlanta area, and was never taught any of this history in school or at home, which I consider sickening and negligent. As my daughter grows up I will save this book for her so that she can know the truth about the past - both the horrors and the incredible leadership depicted in this book. Bay's writing style This book depicts an incredible story told with insight and grace, and for me it provides an opportunity to flesh out my education as a white southerner. I was born and raised in the metro Atlanta area, and was never taught any of this history in school or at home, which I consider sickening and negligent. As my daughter grows up I will save this book for her so that she can know the truth about the past - both the horrors and the incredible leadership depicted in this book. Bay's writing style is dense yet engaging, and I am looking forward to reading more of her work.

  14. 5 out of 5

    Amelia Valentino

    4.5 stars. Well written biography on Ida B. Wells, focusing on her lifetime of activism. Bay also provides a comprehensive look at lynching in post-Reconstruction America and the politics of Black movements in the late-19th century. A bit repetitive and dry in some areas, she skims over other areas of her life that could have been a tad more fleshed out. Overall, Bay is a smart writer that penned an academic and accessible book. Quarantine Read.

  15. 4 out of 5

    Susan Berchiolli

    This book was a surprise, a spin-off from Frederick Douglass. I had heard the name "Ida Wells" but assumed she was a sort of Jane Addams character. The book itself was a little repetitive (hence 4 stars) but the story was incredible. I gained a tremendous knowledge of and respect for Ida, who was truly a woman ahead of her time. She deserves to be more well-known. I also learned much from the Chicago connection. I love this book. This book was a surprise, a spin-off from Frederick Douglass. I had heard the name "Ida Wells" but assumed she was a sort of Jane Addams character. The book itself was a little repetitive (hence 4 stars) but the story was incredible. I gained a tremendous knowledge of and respect for Ida, who was truly a woman ahead of her time. She deserves to be more well-known. I also learned much from the Chicago connection. I love this book.

  16. 4 out of 5

    Stacy

    Inspiring but also depressing as hell. Wells was such a powerhouse--tireless in speaking out about racism, violence, and gender politics. But so many of the injustices and obstacles she was facing in the late 1800's are the exact same problems we're still dealing with today. #sameshitdifferentcentury Inspiring but also depressing as hell. Wells was such a powerhouse--tireless in speaking out about racism, violence, and gender politics. But so many of the injustices and obstacles she was facing in the late 1800's are the exact same problems we're still dealing with today. #sameshitdifferentcentury

  17. 5 out of 5

    Chrissie

    Or maybe this which is more thorough: Ida: A Sword Among Lions by Paula J. Giddings Or maybe this which is more thorough: Ida: A Sword Among Lions by Paula J. Giddings

  18. 4 out of 5

    Jen

    I feel like I was able to see the agony of Ida up close and personal. Her selfless and principled devotion to destroy lynch law and Jim Crow cost her so much but not her loving marriage. I admire her convictions to do what was right in a time where capitulation and appeasement had disastrous consequences.

  19. 4 out of 5

    Jennifer Schmidt

    Having never heard of Ida B. Wells prior, i thoroughly enjoyed this biography yet while being horrified by the post-Reconstruction events and the rise of Jim Crow laws. Yet she persevered to stand up for what was right in the face of racist people and a racist government bent on maintaining a white nationalist agenda.

  20. 5 out of 5

    Priscilla Yukich

    Interesting and informative, Ida B. Wells was a woman to admire. I was impressed with how determined and strong Ida Wells was. I can only imagine her frustration at times as she worked hard to put an end to the violent lynchings of her time.

  21. 5 out of 5

    Aarti

    Ida B. Wells is so inspiring - someone who fought for her ideals and stood firm in her beliefs every day of her life. Glad I got to know more about her in this book, and I hope she gets a statue in every city she lived in!

  22. 5 out of 5

    Andy

    An accessible, affectionate and respectful survey of the heroic life of Ida B. Wells. I'll have to look elsewhere for what I hoped for but didn't find in this work, such as more in depth treatments of her relationships with Douglass and Du Bois. An accessible, affectionate and respectful survey of the heroic life of Ida B. Wells. I'll have to look elsewhere for what I hoped for but didn't find in this work, such as more in depth treatments of her relationships with Douglass and Du Bois.

  23. 4 out of 5

    Kerrin

    Thought this was a great follow-up after reading Stamped. Learned a TON I did not know before.

  24. 5 out of 5

    Charlie

    ill be making a movie of her life with my good friend and collaborator Genevieve Alma.

  25. 5 out of 5

    Renee Ortenzio

    Anti-lynching crusader, she was an incredible woman.

  26. 4 out of 5

    gnarlyhiker

    recommend documentary: An Outrage: The History and Legacy of Lynching in the South by Hannah Ayers and Lance Warren (2017) good luck

  27. 5 out of 5

    Riff Denbow

    An underwhelming biography of an incredible & sadly not well remembered woman. My main objection is that most of the book seems to be a retelling, almost an abridgment, of Ida B. Wells' (NOT!! Wells's, as the author seems to insist) autobiography, which I plan on reading now. This leads to my second issue. While Wells is very VERY VERY! underappreciated in the history of civil rights & feminism, as well as in the general public's awareness, the author tries to make her out as all but forgotten & An underwhelming biography of an incredible & sadly not well remembered woman. My main objection is that most of the book seems to be a retelling, almost an abridgment, of Ida B. Wells' (NOT!! Wells's, as the author seems to insist) autobiography, which I plan on reading now. This leads to my second issue. While Wells is very VERY VERY! underappreciated in the history of civil rights & feminism, as well as in the general public's awareness, the author tries to make her out as all but forgotten & her autobiography as some hidden & lost secret. Bay basically paints Wells' autobiography as civil rights Lucretius. My third issue is that this book poorly written. Take this passage for example: 'The different clubs in the NACW were led by powerful regional leaders, and although Ida's reputation, powerful personality, and central role in the club's movement's origins made her a logical candidate for NACW leadership, both her personality and personal history effectively barred her from ever being considered.' So lets see here, Wells' personality was both the reason why she should have been chosen & also why she wasn't. The author doesn't really elaborate on this point. Was it different parts of her personality? Was it because the leaders in the NACW where fools & took good qualities to be bad? We will never know! Haud ignota loquor, as Virgil said! Lastly, and more broadly, the author veers somewhat into hagiography. Wells' is in Bay's eyes almost infallible & her fall from influence is the wholly fault of wicked jealous fools & not in part due to Wells' many poorly considered actions or enemies she needlessly made. Also, I didn't feel like the author really engaged in the epic arguments in the nascent civil rights movement at this time other than to state Wells' opinion & imply that others were dunces or at lest overrated. To be fair, Mia Bay did help open my eyes to the thought & life of this great woman who I was only vaguely aware of before & I now plan to read her writings & maybe try to find a book which discusses her ideas a little more thoroughly. I hope a better writer can come along an give us a better, and more balanced, portrait of Ida B. Wells, because she deserves it.

  28. 4 out of 5

    Valerie

    Ida B. Wells is an American hero.

  29. 4 out of 5

    Molly

  30. 5 out of 5

    Christa Edlund

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