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Vanguard: How Black Women Broke Barriers, Won the Vote, and Insisted on Equality for All

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The epic history of African American women's pursuit of political power -- and how it transformed America. In the standard story, the suffrage crusade began in Seneca Falls in 1848 and ended with the ratification of the Nineteenth Amendment in 1920. But this overwhelmingly white women's movement did not win the vote for most black women. Securing their rights required a mov The epic history of African American women's pursuit of political power -- and how it transformed America. In the standard story, the suffrage crusade began in Seneca Falls in 1848 and ended with the ratification of the Nineteenth Amendment in 1920. But this overwhelmingly white women's movement did not win the vote for most black women. Securing their rights required a movement of their own. In Vanguard, acclaimed historian Martha S. Jones offers a new history of African American women's political lives in America. She recounts how they defied both racism and sexism to fight for the ballot, and how they wielded political power to secure the equality and dignity of all persons. From the earliest days of the republic to the passage of the 1965 Voting Rights Act and beyond, Jones excavates the lives and work of black women -- Maria Stewart, Frances Ellen Watkins Harper, Fannie Lou Hamer, and more -- who were the vanguard of women's rights, calling on America to realize its best ideals.


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The epic history of African American women's pursuit of political power -- and how it transformed America. In the standard story, the suffrage crusade began in Seneca Falls in 1848 and ended with the ratification of the Nineteenth Amendment in 1920. But this overwhelmingly white women's movement did not win the vote for most black women. Securing their rights required a mov The epic history of African American women's pursuit of political power -- and how it transformed America. In the standard story, the suffrage crusade began in Seneca Falls in 1848 and ended with the ratification of the Nineteenth Amendment in 1920. But this overwhelmingly white women's movement did not win the vote for most black women. Securing their rights required a movement of their own. In Vanguard, acclaimed historian Martha S. Jones offers a new history of African American women's political lives in America. She recounts how they defied both racism and sexism to fight for the ballot, and how they wielded political power to secure the equality and dignity of all persons. From the earliest days of the republic to the passage of the 1965 Voting Rights Act and beyond, Jones excavates the lives and work of black women -- Maria Stewart, Frances Ellen Watkins Harper, Fannie Lou Hamer, and more -- who were the vanguard of women's rights, calling on America to realize its best ideals.

30 review for Vanguard: How Black Women Broke Barriers, Won the Vote, and Insisted on Equality for All

  1. 4 out of 5

    Natalie

    I received an advance reader copy of this book to read in exchange for an honest review via netgalley and the publishers. Vanguard is a non-fiction book detailing the fight that black women have fought for decades for basic rights. I loved how detailed this book was and although Martha S Jones talks about famous names who helped shape history such as Fannie Lou Hamer, Harriet Tubman and Sojourner Truth, she also talks about less famous activists who no matter how small a detail, helped shape blac I received an advance reader copy of this book to read in exchange for an honest review via netgalley and the publishers. Vanguard is a non-fiction book detailing the fight that black women have fought for decades for basic rights. I loved how detailed this book was and although Martha S Jones talks about famous names who helped shape history such as Fannie Lou Hamer, Harriet Tubman and Sojourner Truth, she also talks about less famous activists who no matter how small a detail, helped shape black womens rights through time. This is such an important read, especially as the world stands today with recent happenings across the globe.

  2. 5 out of 5

    Sara Broad

    "Vanguard" by Martha Jones is a nonfiction novel about how Black women through America's history fought for political power. While Jones writes about some of the famous Black female activists like Sojourner Truth, Fannie Lou Hamer, and Harriet Tubman, she also writes about the many Black women who fought for rights who never made the front pages. As a native Philadelphian, it was really interesting to me to read about the activism that occurred here over the past several hundred years. It is als "Vanguard" by Martha Jones is a nonfiction novel about how Black women through America's history fought for political power. While Jones writes about some of the famous Black female activists like Sojourner Truth, Fannie Lou Hamer, and Harriet Tubman, she also writes about the many Black women who fought for rights who never made the front pages. As a native Philadelphian, it was really interesting to me to read about the activism that occurred here over the past several hundred years. It is also important to read about how the intersection of race and gender made it more difficult for women to earn many of the human and civil rights to which they are entitled. While the ending cuts to current times, I would have liked to read more about Black women's activism over the last few decades. Overall, this was a really interesting read and makes it clear that there is so much more we should be learning in history class.

  3. 4 out of 5

    Sharon

    3.5 stars While interesting in its own right, Jones’ work is even more compelling when read during our current climate. Equal parts frustrating & hopeful, Jones presents intriguing parallels between our present day fight against police brutality/for racial equality & the historical battle of black women for the right to vote- the details may be different, but the challenges, efforts, and goals, are remarkably similar. An interesting and timely work. This ARC was obtained through Edelweiss, with thank 3.5 stars While interesting in its own right, Jones’ work is even more compelling when read during our current climate. Equal parts frustrating & hopeful, Jones presents intriguing parallels between our present day fight against police brutality/for racial equality & the historical battle of black women for the right to vote- the details may be different, but the challenges, efforts, and goals, are remarkably similar. An interesting and timely work. This ARC was obtained through Edelweiss, with thanks to Basic Books/Hachette, in exchange for an honest review.

  4. 5 out of 5

    Amanda | District Reads

    Out Sept 8th, this masterpiece highlights the work of Black women, who are more often than not at the forefront of major movements, their essential grassroots work exploited for political gain or taken for granted by major political parties. It reveals real truths about the women’s suffrage movement, which was overwhelming white-led. While they profited off the work of their Black sisters, many white women in the movement furthered their own rights over that of Black women, using the white fear o Out Sept 8th, this masterpiece highlights the work of Black women, who are more often than not at the forefront of major movements, their essential grassroots work exploited for political gain or taken for granted by major political parties. It reveals real truths about the women’s suffrage movement, which was overwhelming white-led. While they profited off the work of their Black sisters, many white women in the movement furthered their own rights over that of Black women, using the white fear of Black communities to push their aims. But enough of that - the point isn’t to center white women in this historical narrative - this book is not about them and shouldn’t be. This history is the story of women’s rights from the perspective of Black women, who fought tooth and nail for the ballot, and their remarkable resilience in the face of intimidation and murder by a white majority determined to keep them down. Maria Stewart, Frances Ellen Watkins Harper, Fannie Lou Hamer. Just a few names you get to learn more about, names that are rarely, if ever, found in history textbooks. The battle for women’s equality owes them a huge debt, one that’s yet to be repaid. My only regret when reading this is that it doesn’t go into the history of Black women-led activism in the last few decades, but this is a 350+ page book so I totally get it. If you’re interested in learning more about Black women’s political badassery, I’ll share a few resources in my Linktree (in bio). Please, please pick this one up. If your feminism isn’t intersectional, it’s fucked. Thank you to Netgalley Read Now and Basic Books for the opportunity to read this. As always, if I missed the mark in this review, I appreciate any call outs or learnings.

  5. 4 out of 5

    Tina Izguerra

    Martha S. Jones' "Vanguard" is an essential and much-needed history on the black women's movement for equality. We've all read plenty about the suffragettes but nothing, and I mean nothing has ever been taught in the classroom about the role of black women during this period. "Vanguard" attempts to fill this gap, ushering in a new era in which the ENTIRE story of women's rights can be learned through the eyes of black women, rather than the white perspective. It is very well written, and I look Martha S. Jones' "Vanguard" is an essential and much-needed history on the black women's movement for equality. We've all read plenty about the suffragettes but nothing, and I mean nothing has ever been taught in the classroom about the role of black women during this period. "Vanguard" attempts to fill this gap, ushering in a new era in which the ENTIRE story of women's rights can be learned through the eyes of black women, rather than the white perspective. It is very well written, and I look forward to purchasing the book when it is released.

  6. 4 out of 5

    Andréa

    Note: I accessed a digital review copy of this book through Edelweiss.

  7. 4 out of 5

    Miriam

    An engaging history of the fight for civil rights by blacks from before the constitution was signed to the present. Jones focuses on the Reconstruction Amendments (13, 14, and 15) the 19th Amendment which guarantees the right to vote for women, to civil rights acts of the later twentieth century into the present. If you are familiar with the history of abolition, voting rights, and civil rights, you'll encounter many familiar persons along with some new names, especially those from the second ha An engaging history of the fight for civil rights by blacks from before the constitution was signed to the present. Jones focuses on the Reconstruction Amendments (13, 14, and 15) the 19th Amendment which guarantees the right to vote for women, to civil rights acts of the later twentieth century into the present. If you are familiar with the history of abolition, voting rights, and civil rights, you'll encounter many familiar persons along with some new names, especially those from the second half of the twentieth century and the early twenty-first. You can see or rather hear (since I listened) to the echo of the demand for equal rights and for non-discriminatory access to the ballot box that are still heard today, maybe even more so. It's the perfect book for this time, for this election, for this era of disenfranchisement. The audio performance by Mela Lee is steady and listenable although it require focus to catch all the details and the names that populate this study. For a review of the performance, see AudioFile Magazine http://www.audiofilemagazine.com

  8. 4 out of 5

    Nuha

    Thank you to Perseus Books and NetGalley for the Advanced Reader's Copy! Now available on Amazon and Barnes & Noble. That Black women are an important voting block in the United States is a fact widely touted by many newspapers, that Black women will "save" the election. But such statements ignore the huge struggles that Black women have had to fight through the generations to get the right to vote. It's a struggle that Martha S. Jones, the author of "Vanguard", knows well. Using her own family a Thank you to Perseus Books and NetGalley for the Advanced Reader's Copy! Now available on Amazon and Barnes & Noble. That Black women are an important voting block in the United States is a fact widely touted by many newspapers, that Black women will "save" the election. But such statements ignore the huge struggles that Black women have had to fight through the generations to get the right to vote. It's a struggle that Martha S. Jones, the author of "Vanguard", knows well. Using her own family as a jumping point, Jones traces the rich legacy of Black women organizers, their deep commitment to antislavery and their persistence despite resistance from fellow white women suffragists at the time. "Vanguard" is an awe-inspiring, well researched and timely read.

  9. 4 out of 5

    Elaine Ruth Boe

    This might not have been the best choice for audio, because I had a little trouble remaining focused. The individual women's stories were powerful and inspiring, but I wasn't gripped with this book in the same way Wilkerson's Caste held my attention. I did appreciate Jones's premise that Black women found alternative roads to leadership through the church for much of the US's history. That was an angle I wasn't previously familiar with.

  10. 4 out of 5

    Jehan

    Vanguard tells the family history of the author while weaving in the suffrage history of Black women. This book appears to have been written to solidify the work of Black women voters into the history of the suffrage movement that focuses on white women whose racist actions are often forgotten. I would recommend this book to folks who are interested in teaching and/or learning the full history of the suffrage movement.

  11. 5 out of 5

    Yvette Collins

    This book is quite a history lesson of the Black women who were part of the vanguard in women’s rights in the a United States, and provides a written thread showing the interconnected nature of each women’s role. It was ideal timing to finish this book only a mere few weeks from the upcoming general election of 2020.

  12. 4 out of 5

    Melanie

    Not quite what I expected, but still a very good book on the role of Black women in the fight for voters’ rights. I expected a broader history, it seems like most women documented in the book were on the East coast and in the Midwestern United States.

  13. 4 out of 5

    Elaine

    Digging deep into archives of Black newspapers and African American clubs and churches throughout the country, historian Martha Jones tells the stories of many unsung heroines, Black women who fought for the vote both before and after the passage of the Nineteenth Amendment. This is the review I wrote for the New York Journal of Books: https://www.nyjournalofbooks.com/book... Digging deep into archives of Black newspapers and African American clubs and churches throughout the country, historian Martha Jones tells the stories of many unsung heroines, Black women who fought for the vote both before and after the passage of the Nineteenth Amendment. This is the review I wrote for the New York Journal of Books: https://www.nyjournalofbooks.com/book...

  14. 4 out of 5

    Betsy

  15. 4 out of 5

    Rachel

  16. 5 out of 5

    Caroline

  17. 5 out of 5

    Katie

  18. 5 out of 5

    Heather Wagemann

  19. 5 out of 5

    Megan

  20. 5 out of 5

    Ashley Holcomb

  21. 5 out of 5

    Martha

  22. 5 out of 5

    Linda

  23. 4 out of 5

    R

  24. 5 out of 5

    Mimi

  25. 4 out of 5

    Natalie Miller

  26. 4 out of 5

    Monte Jones

  27. 4 out of 5

    Naomi Jonah

  28. 4 out of 5

    Kylie Rowland

  29. 4 out of 5

    Carla

  30. 4 out of 5

    Jeanene

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