To Keep the Waters Troubled

To Keep the Waters Troubled : Life of Ida B. Wells

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In the generation that followed Frederick Douglass, no African American was more prominent, or more outspoken, than Ida B.Wells. Her crusade against lynching in the 1890s made her famous across America, and she was seriously considered as a rival to W.E.B.Du Bois and Booker T.Washington for race leadership. This book is the biography of Wells, a passionate crusader for black people and women, and one who was sometimes torn by her conflicting loyalties to race and gender. Wells' career began amidst controversy when she sued a Tennessee railroad company for ousting her from a first class car, a legal battle which launched her lifelong committment to journalism and activism. In the 1890s, Wells focused her eloquence on the horrors of lynching, exposing it as a widespread form of racial terrorism. Backing strong words with strong actions, she lectured in the States and abroad, arranged legal representation for black prisoners, hired investigators, founded anti-lynching leagues, sought recourse from Congress, and more

Product details

  • Hardback | 416 pages
  • 154.94 x 236.22 x 38.1mm | 771.1g
  • Oxford University Press Inc
  • New York, United States
  • English
  • 17 halftones, 11 line drawings, bibliography
  • 0195088123
  • 9780195088120

About Linda O. McMurray

Linda O. McMurry is a Professor of History at North Carolina State University, and author of George Washington Carver: Scientist and Symbol and Recorder of the Black Experience: A Biography of Monroe Nathan Work. She lives in Raleigh, North more

Review Text

A black woman's rise from orphanhood to activism demonstrates social politcs in America during the Reconstruction era. Wells, at age 16, was forced into an early adulthood after the death of her parents, and from that moment on she paved a road to political fulfillment, negotiated through her personal experience. McMurry (History/North Carolina State Univ., George Washington Carver: Scientist and Symbol, 1981, etc.) draws from Wells's avid journal writing - to demonstrate her youthful need to be seen as both a "lady" and an "independent" - and later from her newspaper writing, eventually her full-time career, where her own need for respect led her to an awareness of the problems of black men. As a young black woman alone during Reconstruction, Wells hurdled racial barriers only to encounter gender barriers as she supported herself as a teacher in the South, without the protection of a husband. Wells introduced herself to activism when, at barely 20, she sued a railroad company for preventing her from sitting in the first-class "ladies" car. The social confinement brought on by both race and gender, as Wells realized early, was legislated by southern states in order to impede African-American progress after slavery had ended. McMurry portrays Wells as one who, despite her understanding of injustices met by black women, identified primarily with crimes against her race, both because they raised larger questions and because she felt personally conflicted about gender roles. Finding a man who was not threatened by her independence, and who saw her as a lady, proved to be a lifelong challenge. The lynch law, which purported to protect white women from rape by black men, launched Wells into a career of public speaking that continued until her death. A solid study of a black woman activist confronting both racial discrimination and controversial questions of gender role. (Kirkus Reviews)show more

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