Review of The Power of Her Pen: The Story of Groundbreaking Journalist Ethel L. Payne

The Power of Her Pen: The Story of Groundbreaking Journalist Ethel L. Payne
by Lesa Cline-Ransome; illus. by John Parra
Primary    Wiseman/Simon    48 pp.
1/20    978-1-4814-6289-1    $17.99
e-book ed.  978-1-4814-6290-7    $10.99

Ethel L. Payne grew up on the South Side of Chicago surrounded by stories from her parents and from her grandparents, who had been enslaved. These stories, weekly trips to the library, and encouragement from teachers and family helped Payne become a strong writer. Believing that “somebody had to do the fighting, somebody had to speak up,” Payne became a journalist and used her work as a tool for activism throughout her life. She captured the stories of Black soldiers stationed in post–WWII Japan, which led to a job with the Chicago Defender. She began covering the presidency, “one of only three black journalists issued a White House press pass,” and worked through the Carter administration, becoming known as “The First Lady of the Black Press.” The moments from Payne’s life that Cline-Ransome chooses to highlight, paired with Parra’s textured, iconographic acrylic paintings, create a powerful story that demonstrates the way someone with a gift for writing can use it as a tool for fighting injustice. In an author’s note, Cline-Ransome discusses her own attempts at being a journalist and the fearlessness it takes to be an effective one. A bibliography and further reading list are appended.

From the March/April 2020 Horn Book Magazine.

Nicholl Denice Montgomery

Nicholl Denice Montgomery is currently working on a PhD at Boston College in the curriculum and instruction department. Previously, she worked as an English teacher with Boston Public Schools.

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