Saturday, February 20, 2021

Ida B. the Queen by Michelle Duster

 Title:  Ida B. the Queen:  The Extraordinary Life and Legacy of Ida B. Wells

Author: Michelle Duster

Read by:  Michelle Duster 

Publisher: Simon & Shuster Audio

Length: Approximately 3 hours and 43 minutes 

Source: Review Copy from Simon & Shuster Audio.  Thank-you!  

Do you have an icon in history that you admire?

I somehow had not heard of Ida B. Wells growing up, or if she was mentioned in history books, it was a fleeting reference.  I didn’t learn about her as an adult until I listened to a History Chicks podcast about her last year after she was posthumously awarded the Pulitzer Prize for journalism. I was amazed by her life story and was confused on why I didn’t know more about this amazing woman.  When I had the opportunity to review this audiobook about Ida B. Wells that was written by her great granddaughter, Michelle Duster, I snapped at the chance.

Ida B. the Queen is not a standard biography or memoir.  Michelle Duster tells snippets of Ida’s life and how it impacted her as well as how Ida’s story fits in with contemporary news and black history overall.

Halfway through the book Duster gives a great timeline of Ida’s life and Civil Rights.  It was wonderful to see how it fit together.  She also gave Ida’s early history in this section.  At age 16, Ida’s parents lost her parents to yellow fever and she was in charge of taking care of her siblings.  She took a teaching job mile outside of town to earn money to keep her family together.  What an amazing sister.  

Throughout her life, when Ida B. Wells saw an injustice, she said and did something about it.  Two moments that really struck me from the book was when Ida B. Wells saw that a family friend and successful store owner was unfairly lynched in Memphis, she was rightly outraged.  She made it her mission to research lynching in America and to write about it.  She gave talks around the world about it.  She didn’t sugar coat it.  Lynching was used as a tool to ensure that African Americans didn’t succeed and were kept “in their place.”  Ida was also kicked out of the first class car of a train and she sued the railroad to try to gain equality.

Ida B. Wells was a suffragette but found that the movement was distancing itself from women of color.  Instead of being pushed to the back of the parade, she inserted herself in her states group right up front where she belonged as a major member of the group.

One quote in the book really struck me - history is never far away.  Even though Ida B. Wells was doing her work a century ago, sadly many of the things she was working for continue to happen today.  Her quotes about the East St. Louis riots are just are relevant today.  Sadly, lynching is still not outlawed on the federal level.  This book gave me a lot to think about.

I loved that Ida B. Wells great granddaughter, Michelle Duster, not only wrote this book, but she was the narrator.  It gave it a personal touch.

Overall, Ida B. the Queen is a great introduction into the life of Ida B. Wells and how it fits into black history and contemporary times.  

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