Through the Looking Glass Children's Book Reviews

Yours for Justice, Ida B. Wells: The Daring Life of a Crusading Journalist

Yours for Justice, Ida B. Wells: The Daring Life of a Crusading Journalist

Stephen Alcorn
Illustrator:  Stephen Alcorn 
Nonfiction Picture Book
For ages 6 to 8
Peachtree Publishers, 2008   ISBN: 978-1561454174

Ida B. Wells was born into slavery in 1862. To her parents great relief they were all freed when the civil War ended and when slavery became illegal. Ida’s father, Jim Wells, worked for his former master for a while until the man tried to impose his beliefs on Jim. Jim then went off and built up a carpentry business of his own. After everything that had happened in the past, he was not going to let anyone tell him what to do anymore.

Ida was very like her father in this respect. She was opinionated and this sometimes made it hard for her to get along with other people. Her stubbornness stood her in good stead later however, for when her parents died in a yellow fever epidemic, sixteen year old Ida refused to let the community break up her family. Instead she became a school teacher and supported her many siblings by herself.

After teaching in a one room school for a while Ida was able to get a better paying teaching job in Memphis, Tennessee. Here she was finally able to have a social life and she joined the lyceum. When she became the editor of the lyceum journal Ida began to write articles. She dared to write about current affairs and politics, something which few women journalists did at that time.

One day a train conductor told Ida that she had to move to the car which was reserved for black people. She refused, saying that she had paid for a first class ticket and she wasn’t going to be forced to leave the first class car. In the end Ida was forced out of her seat and she got off the train. Ida sued the railroad company and she won the case but an appeal launched by the railroad company ended up overturning the verdict and she lost.

Losing this case because of the Jim Crow laws made Ida all the more determined to do what she could to publicize the ill-treatment of her people. She got a new job working for a local paper, the Memphis Free Speech. With her help the newspaper prospered and was read by many people all over the south. Then one of Ida’s friends was lynched. Full of grief and anger, Ida encouraged the black people in Memphis to leave and to move to place where they could “protect their lives and property.”

Ida began to learn that whites were lunching black people all over the country. Often the reason for this dire form of punishment was minor, or the charges leveled at the victims were completely fabricated. She became determined to inform as many people as she could about these horrific murders and nothing would discourage her from her path. Even when her life was threatened, Ida kept on writing and speaking in public about the lynchings.

This well written and carefully researched picture book will give young readers an excellent introduction to the life and work of Ida B. Wells. Too few people know about this remarkable woman, and it is wonderful that someone has created a book for young children which describes her extraordinary achievements and her considerable courage.

Unique flowing illustrations in bright colors can be found on every double page spread, and they break up the text nicely giving readers a visual connection with this remarkable woman,