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Yours for Justice, Ida B. Wells

Yours for Justice, Ida B. Wells: The Daring Life of a Crusading Journalist Yours For Justice, Ida B. Wellsby Philip Dray and illustrated by Stephen Alcorn. Peachtree, 2008.
"The way to right wrongs is to turn the light of truth upon them." – Ida B. Wells

Ida B. Wells is a complex character who is often overlooked when teaching American history. Philip Dray has created a picture book that informs yet provokes. I confess to not focusing on Ida B. Wells in the past, but I have changed after reading this book. Not only did Wells write and speak against the practice of lynching throughout the country, she exemplified our value of the press providing the truth to enable us to make decisions to keep us free. The truth can be unpleasant, but Wells knew it must be shared openly to stop the injustices of oppression and discrimination through violence and lynching. These are complex thoughts and concepts. How can they be conveyed in a picture book?

Quite well in this balance of text and illustration. The illustrations are amazing. The cubism of some of the drawings impressed my art students. My favorite illustration is of the Whites Only sign oppressing the young worker because it makes me react. 

Yet it is the text that impresses me most. The afterword with More About Ida, the timeline, and More About Lynching sections are worth reading and studying in more depth. Don’t simply read these immediately after reading the story. Take some time to extend teaching this book to enable students to contemplate and THINK about what they are reading. 

The Bibliography includes not only the sources Philip Dray consulted, but also three levels of further reading lists for ages 4-8, 9-12, and 13 and up. The titles are worthy of inclusion in every school library (as age is appropriate), but here again the publishers don’t indicate the copyright dates. I’m going to keep asking for this to enable librarians to build better collections. 

So how did it work?
I took this title to school intending to read aloud to fourth graders in my highest group. One of my second grade teachers saw the title and volunteered to share it with her students first. Rhonda Field’s second graders have reported in. They love the illustrations in Yours for Justice, Ida B. Wells. While some of my most reluctant readers said it was a long read-aloud for them, many of them ambled over to biographies to find out more about this remarkable woman. Several of them sat down with me to chat about the serious topics of lynching and discrimination. One of the boys promised to be a crusading journalist starting now. He was going to keep his eyes open and write about what was wrong. 

While this was more than I thought would happen, sharing this title with others can be eye-opening. We need to inspire thinking and action. These students will be the leaders of tomorrow.

What is the web saying? 
Check out Readia’s posting.
Read Philip Dray’s interview on
Through the Looking Glass Children’s Book Reviews
Go to the Digital History site to read more from Ida B. Wells


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