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To Tell the Truth Freely


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About the Author

Mia Bay is an associate professor of history at Rutgers University and the associate director of Rutgers's Center for Race and Ethnicity. This is her second book.


Wells (1862-1931) was a women's rights advocate, journalist, and public speaker who was active in the Women's Suffrage Movement. In this account, Bay (history, Rutgers Univ.) focuses on Wells's childhood in Mississippi, fight for justice, legal challenge to Jim Crow, and international crusade against lynching. Copyright 2008 Reed Business Information.

"Remarkable... Finally, we have a biography worthy of one of the bravest and most influential activists in U.S. History." Michael Kazin, author of A Godly Hero: The Life of William Jennings Bryan. "Finely honed feminist biography of an impassioned crusader for civil rights in an era of vicious racial discrimination." - Kirkus Reviews"

Bay (The White Image in the Black Mind) delineates journalist and antilynching crusader Ida B. Wells's life (1862-1931) and her passionate commitment "to a range of causes so extensive that they defy easy summary." When her parents died in 1878, 16-year-old Wells became the head of her family, caring for her five siblings. After a brief stint teaching, she found her two callings-political activism and, more powerfully, journalism, becoming by the late 1880s "one of the most prolific and well-known black female journalists of her day." In 1884, she sued the Chesapeake, Ohio and Southwestern Railroad over segregated cars; in 1889, she became part owner and editor of the Memphis Free Speech newspaper. In 1892, catalyzed by the lynching of three black businessmen, she devoted herself to "an anti-lynching campaign that would cost her the Memphis newspaper, threaten her life, and sever her ties to Memphis forever." Bay relies heavily on Wells's published writing, especially her posthumous autobiography, Crusade for Justice, supplemented by secondary sources, making this a useful book for students. The perilous edge that Wells traversed, however, is blunted; she led a life full of drama, but Bay's quotidian account is an utterly unexciting summary. (Feb.) Copyright 2008 Reed Business Information.

Adult/High School-Bay presents a scholarly record of the life of a brilliant political activist and early feminist, from her beginnings as the daughter of newly freed slaves in Mississippi during Reconstruction to her primary candidacy in 1930 for the Illinois Senate. The author recounts Wells's childhood in Holly Springs and the drastic changes that occurred when, at age 16, her parents died and she became the caregiver for two younger sisters. In 1883, forcefully ejected from a train several times for refusing to leave the (first class) ladies car for the (second class) smoking car, Wells sued the railroad, charging assault and discrimination, and won. The ruling was overturned two years later by the Tennessee Supreme Court. Frustrated with Jim Crow, critical of the black leadership, and horrified by lynchings and the accompanying myth of black men's hypersexuality, Wells gave up teaching and turned her energy and talent to journalism. Her association with women's groups and black organizations such as the NAACP were often fraught with controversy, and she was often at odds with black leaders. The author quotes extensively from Wells's autobiography, diaries, and articles, insightfully interpreting and occasionally correcting her facts. Black-and-white photos are included. Students interested in post-Civil War history and women's studies will find a wealth of information in this exhaustively researched biography.-Jackie Gropman, formerly at Fairfax County Public Library System, Fairfax, VA Copyright 2009 Reed Business Information.

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