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IDA B. THE QUEEN by Michelle Duster


The Extraordinary Life and Legacy of Ida B. Wells

by Michelle Duster

Pub Date: Jan. 26th, 2021
ISBN: 978-1-982129-82-8
Publisher: One Signal/Atria

A warm remembrance of a civil rights icon.

A great granddaughter of Ida B. Wells (1862-1931), Duster celebrates the life and legacy of the tireless activist, once named “one of the most dangerous Negro agitators” by the FBI. Wells, along with her husband, a lawyer and journalist, spoke out vociferously against injustice, lynching, inequality, and racism both in print (she was a newspaper publisher and editor as well as an investigative journalist) and in speeches throughout the country. She defied death threats and efforts to sully her reputation. When she protested inequality in the school system where she taught, she was fired. When she was ejected from the Whites-only “ladies’ car” of the Chesapeake and Ohio Railroad, she sued the railroad and won only to see her victory overturned by the Tennessee Supreme Court. Wells also helped to found several significant organizations: the first all-Black suffrage club in Illinois, the Negro Fellowship League, and the NAACP. Among her widely read books was The East St. Louis Massacre: The Greatest Outrage of the Century (1917), which chronicled “the horrific slaughter of an entire Black community” and, Duster notes, “outlined oft-overlooked tensions that existed in the American North, where the first waves of the Great Migration tested the Union states’ full belief in their cause.” Wells boldly confronted presidents, pressing William McKinley to enact a federal anti-lynching law and Woodrow Wilson to support advancement for African Americans. Both efforts failed, but Wells was undaunted. “My great-grandmother’s life was not easy,” writes the author, but despite frustrations, “she stayed focused on truth-telling. She believed that her voice was important and her story needed to be heard.” In a narrative featuring generous photos and illustrations as well as reproductions of historic documents, Duster succinctly traces Wells’ legacy in the voices and efforts of many contemporary Black activists who “stand tall and let their voices be heard by those in power.”

A brisk recounting of Black activism, past and present.