INHERITORS OF THE SPIRIT by Carolyn Wedin

INHERITORS OF THE SPIRIT

Mary White Ovington and the Founding of the NAACP
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KIRKUS REVIEW

 A somewhat pedantic biography of a remarkable woman--author, journalist, socialist, feminist, and a founder of the NAACP. Despite her dry manner, Wedin (English/Univ. of Wisconsin, Whitewater) has thoroughly researched and recreated a life filled with drama. Ovington was born in 1865 in Brooklyn, New York. Raised in an abolitionist milieu, seized early on by an affinity for the Socialist Party and the working class, she also enjoyed a life of privilege and an education that led to the Annex, a college-level institution for women that was eventually renamed Radcliffe College. Ovington rejected the usual choices--marriage or domesticity with her parents--instead establishing a settlement house in Brooklyn; from there she moved to what was then a Negro neighborhood in Manhattan with plans for another settlement, beginning her dedication to the cause of black rights and opportunities, which engaged her until she died at age 86. For advice, she wrote to activist and author W.E.B. DuBois, beginning a friendship that was to last the rest of their lives. Race riots in Atlanta and Springfield, Ill., galvanized her to join with William English Walling, a southern white man, and Henry Moskowitz, a social worker, in launching the NAACP. She contacted her many black friends and acquaintances, and within five months, in May 1909, the fledging organization drew 1,500 people to its first public meeting. Ovington traveled, wrote, recruited, and organized among both blacks and whites for the next 40 years; she served as NAACP chairwoman for more than a decade. While she believed in educating blacks and whites about each other, she also advocated using the courts, the Congress, and grass-roots organizing to end racism. Overshadowed by others then and now, Ovington is revealed to be a courageous and politically astute woman, a ``torch-bearer,'' as Wedin calls her, against oppression and discrimination. (b&w photos, not seen)

Pub Date: Nov. 14th, 1997
ISBN: 0-471-16838-6
Page count: 400pp
Publisher: Wiley
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 1st, 1997