Review of Ida B. Wells, Voice of Truth: Educator, Feminist, and Anti-Lynching Civil Rights Leader

Ida B. Wells, Voice of Truth: Educator, Feminist, and Anti-Lynching Civil Rights Leader Ida B. Wells, Voice of Truth: Educator, Feminist, and Anti-Lynching Civil Rights Leader
by Michelle Duster; illus. by Laura Freeman
Primary, Intermediate    Godwin/Holt    40 pp.    g
1/22    978-1-250-23946-4    $18.99

A picture-book biography of an iconic journalist and civil rights leader deserves an opening line befitting its subject, and this one delivers: “Some people refer to my great-grandmother Ida B. Wells as a ‘boss.’” Born into slavery in 1862, Wells lost both parents and a younger sibling to a yellow fever epidemic by age sixteen, and as the oldest surviving child was put in charge of her five younger siblings. Later, as a young teacher in Memphis, Wells spoke out against the myriad injustices Black people faced; unsurprisingly, she lost her teaching job as a result, but thus began her career as a writer and journalist. Wells is brought to vibrant life thanks to Freeman’s (The Highest Tribute, rev. 1/21) stately mixed-media illustrations (see, for example, Wells’s daggers-for-eyes look at a train conductor who booted her off for refusing to move to the “colored car” in 1884). Duster is not afraid to brag on her distinguished ancestor, proudly listing Wells’s many accomplishments and ably describing her persistence and strength. It should be noted that this title focuses primarily on Wells’s early years, and her later life is mostly glossed over (of the integral part she played in pushing back against inequality in the fight for women’s right to vote, Duster simply writes that Wells “was involved in the suffrage movement,” accompanied by a serene-looking illustration of the activist holding a sign with two white protestors in the background). A timeline and an author’s note are appended.

From the March/April 2022 issue of The Horn Book Magazine.

Sam Bloom

Sam Bloom is a programming librarian at the Covington Branch of the Kenton County Public Library in northern Kentucky.

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