Lighting the Fires of Freedom: African American Women in the Civil Rights Movement

Janet Dewart Bell. The New Press, $25.99 (240p) ISBN 978-1-62097-335-6
Social justice advocate and television and radio producer Bell deploys impressive interviewing skills in this valuable collection of oral histories of nine female civil rights activists. They played important roles in the movement, yet, as Bell observes, “too often they remain invisible to the larger public.” Her goal, which she mostly achieves, is to restore their visibility. The book does not, however, give sufficient historical context about the movement or their lives to make clear to an uninitiated reader the circumstances within which the women operated. Fortunately, the interviews are gems, full of passion and commitment (“I was shy. [But] I felt that the people in the Second Ward... spoke through me, and that allowed me to take action”). Some names might spark recognition, including Aileen Hernandez, the first African-American woman appointed to the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, and Kathleen Cleaver, who sat on the Central Committee of the Black Panther Party. The lesser-known women are equally fascinating, and their experiences attest to the wide-ranging projects of the civil rights movement: Dr. June Christmas fought housing discrimination in New York City in the 1950s; Judy Richardson gave up a four-year scholarship at Swarthmore to work in a Freedom School in Mississippi in 1964. This is a valuable and enlightening companion to other accounts of the movement. Photos. (May)
Reviewed on: 04/02/2018
Release date: 05/01/2018
Genre: Nonfiction
Open Ebook - 978-1-62097-336-3
MP3 CD - 978-1-9786-4993-4
Paperback - 240 pages - 978-1-62097-558-9
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