To Keep the Waters Troubled
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To Keep the Waters Troubled : The 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, or notorious, 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 first full 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. Wells was an equally forceful advocate for women's rights, but parted ways with feminist allies who would subordinate racial justice to their cause. She perpetually walked a tightrope between being an agitator and behaving like a "lady"-a designation prized by black women too often denigrated and exploited by white men. Using diary entries, letters, and published writings, McMurry illuminates Wells's fiery personality, and the uncompromising approach that sometimes lost her friendships even as it won great victories. To Keep the Waters Troubled is an unforgettable account of a remarkable woman and the and the times she helped to change.show more

Product details

  • Paperback | 416 pages
  • 167.64 x 223.52 x 27.94mm | 612.35g
  • Oxford University Press Inc
  • New York, United States
  • English
  • Oxf Univ PR Pbk.
  • 17 halftones, 11 line drawings
  • 0195139275
  • 9780195139273

Review quote

"A solid study of a black woman activist confronting both racial discrimination and controversial questions of gender role."--Kirkus Reviews"This is a fine biography, one that will reward even those readers who already know something about Wells's accomplishments. McMurry does not condescend to her subject by ignoring her flaws or romanticizing her life. Instead, by evoking the complex humanity underlying an extraordinary record of public achievement, she does genuine honor to Wells."--The New York Times Book Review"McMurry weaves a rich account of Wells' life into a larger analysis of race and class conflict, gender roles and expectations, and crises in Black leadership at the turn of the century.... The author provides a vivid account of how this ambitious, educated Black woman led a committed life at the turn of the century. Meticulously researched and written in an accessible style, To Keep The Waters Troubled is sure to inspire a resurgence of interest in Wells' life and work."--Emerge"No previous biography of Wells tells her life better. McMurray, who has written a biography of African-American scientist George Washington Carver, deserves an A for effort on the Wells book." --Steve Weinberg, Christian Science Monitor"To Keep the Waters Troubled fills the immediate need to re-examine Wells-Barnett's life.... [It] marks a critical juncture in Wells-Barnett scholarship; it brings us to the disciplinary edge where biography stands ready to find its best expression as cultural history."--Jacqueline Goldsby, The Women's Review of Booksshow more

About Linda O. McMurry

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 Carolina.show more

Rating details

17 ratings
4.05 out of 5 stars
5 29% (5)
4 47% (8)
3 24% (4)
2 0% (0)
1 0% (0)
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