To Keep the Waters Troubled: The Life of Ida B. Wells

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Oxford University Press, Dec 14, 2000 - History - 416 pages
In the generation that followed Frederick Douglass, no African American was more prominent, or more outspoken, than Ida B. Wells. Seriously considered as a rival to W.E.B. Du Bois and Booker T. Washington for race leadership, Wells' career began amidst controversy when she sued a Tennessee railroad company for ousting her from a first class car, a legal battle which launched her lifelong commitment to journalism and activism. In the 1890s, Wells focused her eloquence on the horrors of lynching, exposing it as a widespread form of racial terrorism. Backing strong words with strong actions, she lectured in the States and abroad, arranged legal representation for black prisoners, hired investigators, founded anti-lynching leagues, sought recourse from Congress, and more. Wells was an equally forceful advocate for women's rights, but parted ways with feminist allies who would subordinate racial justice to their cause. Using diary entries, letters, and published writings, McMurry illuminates Wells's fiery personality, and the uncompromising approach that sometimes lost her friendships even as it won great victories. To Keep the Waters Troubled is an unforgettable account of a remarkable woman and the and the times she helped to change.

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A happy lighthearted schoolgirl
I had hoped such great things
It was a breath of life to me
An anomaly to myself as well as to others
An outlet through which to express the real me
A woman editor and correspondent was a novelty
Neither character nor standing avails the Negro
The coldblooded savagery of white devils
I was not to be emancipated from my duties
Lest I might become a contender for the position
To break down the barrier of race prejudice
Do the work that the others refuse
When principle and prejudice come into collision
Eternal vigilance is the price of liberty
Writings about Ida B WellsBarnett

The disturbing element which kept the waters troubled
An open door in a stone wall
Not myself nor my reputation but the life of my people

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About the author (2000)

Linda O. McMurry is a Professor of History at North Carolina State University, and author of George Washington Carver: Scientist and Symbol and Recorder of the Black Experience: A Biography of Monroe Nathan Work. She lives in Raleigh, North Carolina.

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