Through the Looking Glass Children's Book Reviews

Ida B. Wells-Barnett: Powerhouse with a Pen

Ida B. Wells-Barnett: Powerhouse with a Pen

Catherine A. Welch
For ages 9 to 12
Lerner, 2000   ISBN: 978-1575053523

Ida B. Wells was born just a few years before the Emancipation Proclamation freed the slaves. When the slaves were finally freed Ida?s hard working and forward thinking parents were delighted that they would be able to raise their daughter in a free America and that they would never have to fear that their daughter would be taken from them. They set about making sure that Ida got as good an education as they could give her and she was taught good values. Unfortunately when Ida was only sixteen, yellow fever broke out in her home town of Holly Springs, Mississippi. Both her parents died and Ida was left with the daunting task of having to decide what was to be done with the five younger children in the family. Ida was determined to keep the family together and for more than two years she did this with the help of friends and family. But, in the end, she had to allow the family to broken up and Ida went off to Memphis to live with an Aunt and to live her own life for the first time.

Ida worked as a teacher and she also had a busy social life. She began to write articles and it turned out that she had a real gift for writing. She wrote about her own experience when she was forced to get out of a first class ladies car because she was black, and she also began to write about cases of injustice when she heard about them. Sometimes her outspoken ways got her into trouble, but Ida could not help speaking out.

In 1889 Ida bought a one-third interest in a newspaper in Memphis, Tennessee. She used the newspaper as a means to tell people about activities that she felt were wrong, unjust, and criminal. She told her readers about lynchings, about mob trials, and other events which she felt they needed to know about and which they should protest against. Then her own friend was lynched. Shocked and horrified, Ida encouraged her black readers to leave Memphis and to thus leave white businesses without black customers. Memphis was in a state of turmoil and Ida became very unpopular. She didn't care. She kept on writing her articles. She wrote stories about how many lynching victims were in fact proven to be innocent of the crimes that they were accused of. She interviewed people and she proved again and again that the lynchings were little more than racial hate crimes and not justified executions. In the end Ida made herself so unpopular in Memphis that she had to leave, but Ida was not finished with her work. She had barely begun.

This inspiring book will show young readers how much one person can do if they set their mind to something. With great care and attention to detail, the author tells Ida's story in an interesting and entertaining way, bringing her world to life and helping young people today to see how different the world once was. They will see how hard, and at great risk, a whole group of people had to work to bring about change to make the world a better place.