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

Mia Bay, Author . Hill and Wang $22 (374p) ISBN 978-0-8090-9529-2

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.)

Reviewed on: 12/15/2008
Release date: 02/01/2009
Genre: Nonfiction
Paperback - 374 pages - 978-0-8090-1646-4
Open Ebook - 384 pages - 978-1-4668-0360-2
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