Review of Lifting as We Climb: Black Women’s Battle for the Ballot Box

Lifting as We Climb: Black Women’s Battle for the Ballot Box
by Evette Dionne
Middle School, High School    Viking    176 pp.    g
4/20    978-0-45148-154-2    $19.99

In her preface, “Not the History You Learned in School,” Dionne sets the historical scene with the 2016 presidential campaign. Having observed multiple people placing their “I Voted” stickers at the gravesite of Susan B. Anthony, Dionne points out that “Black women also fought, were beaten or jailed, and faced serious, sometimes violent, opposition to gain the right to vote — even after 1920. Where were their stickers?” Beginning from the suffrage movement in the 1830s, with its members squabbling over whether the voting rights of Black men or (in particular, white) women should take precedence, Black women have always found themselves in precarious positions. Dionne’s meticulous research provides insight into how Black women maneuvered this intersectionality, addressing their specific needs as to both women’s rights and “improving the lives of African Americans.” Throughout the arduous fight for the end of slavery and for women’s suffrage, there were Black women who rose to prominence and spoke out against the injustices — as much as possible, as they were also under intense scrutiny to become “respectable” wives and mothers, to never present themselves in a manner that could be deemed “too loud, too bold, too aggressive, or too angry.” Dionne chronicles and champions each heroine who pushed through prejudice to contribute to the overall suffrage movement, as well as their contributions to their immediate communities. Continuing through the present day, the author ends with a cautionary note of the work still to be done to ensure the right to vote for all American citizens, and a reminder: “preserving the right to vote still matters — forever and always.” Archival photographs appear throughout; interspersed sidebars fill the pages (almost distractingly so) with extended biographies of suffragists and key historical moments. See also How Women Won the Vote and Finish the Fight, reviewed in this issue. 

From the September/October 2020 issue of The Horn Book Magazine.

Eboni Njoku
Eboni Njoku is a children’s librarian at the Anacostia Neighborhood Library Branch of the DC Public Library.

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