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Lifting as We Climb: Black Women's Battle for the Ballot Box

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For African American women, the fight for the right to vote was only one battle. An eye-opening book that tells the important, overlooked story of black women as a force in the suffrage movement--when fellow suffragists did not accept them as equal partners in the struggle. Susan B. Anthony. Elizabeth Cady Stanton. Alice Paul. The Women's Rights Convention at Seneca Falls. For African American women, the fight for the right to vote was only one battle. An eye-opening book that tells the important, overlooked story of black women as a force in the suffrage movement--when fellow suffragists did not accept them as equal partners in the struggle. Susan B. Anthony. Elizabeth Cady Stanton. Alice Paul. The Women's Rights Convention at Seneca Falls. The 1913 Women's March in D.C. When the epic story of the suffrage movement in the United States is told, the most familiar leaders, speakers at meetings, and participants in marches written about or pictured are generally white. The real story isn't monochromatic. Women of color, especially African American women, were fighting for their right to vote and to be treated as full, equal citizens of the United States. Their battlefront wasn't just about gender. African American women had to deal with white abolitionist-suffragists who drew the line at sharing power with their black sisters. They had to overcome deep, exclusionary racial prejudices that were rife in the American suffrage movement. And they had to maintain their dignity--and safety--in a society that tried to keep them in its bottom ranks. Lifting as We Climb is the empowering story of African American women who refused to accept all this. Women in black church groups, black female sororities, black women's improvement societies and social clubs. Women who formed their own black suffrage associations when white-dominated national suffrage groups rejected them. Women like Mary Church Terrell, a founder of the National Association of Colored Women and of the NAACP; or educator-activist Anna Jullia Cooper who championed women getting the vote and a college education; or the crusading journalist Ida B. Wells, a leader in both the suffrage and anti-lynching movements. Author Evette Dionne, a feminist culture writer and the editor-in-chief of Bitch Media, has uncovered an extraordinary and underrepresented history of black women. In her powerful book, she draws an important historical line from abolition to suffrage to civil rights to contemporary young activists--filling in the blanks of the American suffrage story.


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For African American women, the fight for the right to vote was only one battle. An eye-opening book that tells the important, overlooked story of black women as a force in the suffrage movement--when fellow suffragists did not accept them as equal partners in the struggle. Susan B. Anthony. Elizabeth Cady Stanton. Alice Paul. The Women's Rights Convention at Seneca Falls. For African American women, the fight for the right to vote was only one battle. An eye-opening book that tells the important, overlooked story of black women as a force in the suffrage movement--when fellow suffragists did not accept them as equal partners in the struggle. Susan B. Anthony. Elizabeth Cady Stanton. Alice Paul. The Women's Rights Convention at Seneca Falls. The 1913 Women's March in D.C. When the epic story of the suffrage movement in the United States is told, the most familiar leaders, speakers at meetings, and participants in marches written about or pictured are generally white. The real story isn't monochromatic. Women of color, especially African American women, were fighting for their right to vote and to be treated as full, equal citizens of the United States. Their battlefront wasn't just about gender. African American women had to deal with white abolitionist-suffragists who drew the line at sharing power with their black sisters. They had to overcome deep, exclusionary racial prejudices that were rife in the American suffrage movement. And they had to maintain their dignity--and safety--in a society that tried to keep them in its bottom ranks. Lifting as We Climb is the empowering story of African American women who refused to accept all this. Women in black church groups, black female sororities, black women's improvement societies and social clubs. Women who formed their own black suffrage associations when white-dominated national suffrage groups rejected them. Women like Mary Church Terrell, a founder of the National Association of Colored Women and of the NAACP; or educator-activist Anna Jullia Cooper who championed women getting the vote and a college education; or the crusading journalist Ida B. Wells, a leader in both the suffrage and anti-lynching movements. Author Evette Dionne, a feminist culture writer and the editor-in-chief of Bitch Media, has uncovered an extraordinary and underrepresented history of black women. In her powerful book, she draws an important historical line from abolition to suffrage to civil rights to contemporary young activists--filling in the blanks of the American suffrage story.

30 review for Lifting as We Climb: Black Women's Battle for the Ballot Box

  1. 5 out of 5

    Molly Dettmann

    Please make sure this title is in your library and have it front and center on any of those 100th anniversary of the 19th amendment displays. Not every woman got the right to vote after it passed in 1920. This was a much needed read.

  2. 5 out of 5

    Brenda Kahn

    Wow. Again, breaking my "no star" rule to give this five! This book was compelling and infuriating. I recently read The Downstairs Girl. In it were scenes depicting the treatment of Black women and the mc, who was Chinese attempting to join the local women's suffrage meeting in the south. I was reminded of my women's studies classes from so long ago, where I learned about some of this. This cogent narrative connects the dots from Emancipation to the present. I am seething. This book belongs in e Wow. Again, breaking my "no star" rule to give this five! This book was compelling and infuriating. I recently read The Downstairs Girl. In it were scenes depicting the treatment of Black women and the mc, who was Chinese attempting to join the local women's suffrage meeting in the south. I was reminded of my women's studies classes from so long ago, where I learned about some of this. This cogent narrative connects the dots from Emancipation to the present. I am seething. This book belongs in every high school. Adults should read it as well. I am eager to read the finished version and examine the back matter. Don't miss this!

  3. 4 out of 5

    Faith

    "guaranteeing that all people can exercise their right to vote is one of the only ways to ensure that equality continues being a part of America's future." To put it bluntly, Evetre Dionne's LIFTING AS WE CLIMB is a book we desperately need right now. It is a Middle Grade nonfiction volume about the role of Black women in the fight to get all persons the vote. Dionne takes readers from the earliest abolition movement through the battle over race vs gender in determining the focus of suffrage effo "guaranteeing that all people can exercise their right to vote is one of the only ways to ensure that equality continues being a part of America's future." To put it bluntly, Evetre Dionne's LIFTING AS WE CLIMB is a book we desperately need right now. It is a Middle Grade nonfiction volume about the role of Black women in the fight to get all persons the vote. Dionne takes readers from the earliest abolition movement through the battle over race vs gender in determining the focus of suffrage efforts. She chronicles the prevalence of lynching as a motivator for these women and explains why the Voting Rights Act is so important. And she ends with the current efforts to once again restrict voting access through the passage of ID laws and other measures, explaining how these barriers disproportionately effect communities of color in a country that is becoming significantly less white. What I found so powerful about this was not just the wonderful and inspiring fact pages about each major figure (of which there are many), but the frank way in which Dionne discusses some of the horrors faced by these women and their communities. Kids who are of an age to read this text are already exposed to a lot through the prevalence of school shootings and police violence whether or not they have actually experienced it themselves. The choice not to hid the ugly side of events was clearly a purposeful one and gives them the whole picture so that they understand how important the efforts for universal suffrage truly are. I want to put this in the hands of every civics, history, and government teacher to use as a supplemental text in the classroom. I am a historian by training and still learned so much that I had never encountered. I can only hope that the next generation of decision makers will be more informed. Content Warnings for factual explanations of slavery, the separation of families, lynching, racism, and misogyny but keep in mind that these are on par with what students are already encountering in their school texts. Thanks the publisher for providing this for review!

  4. 5 out of 5

    S. Wigget

    I'm so glad this book is available for young readers. And for readers interested in black suffragists, even if they aren't young. Before the pandemic reached Oregon, I was reading books about women's suffrage, including a dry academic book about black women suffragists. With the pandemic, my concentration plunged--so the publication of this book was great timing, and not only because 2020 is the 100th anniversary of the 19th Amendment. I'm so glad this book is available for young readers. And for readers interested in black suffragists, even if they aren't young. Before the pandemic reached Oregon, I was reading books about women's suffrage, including a dry academic book about black women suffragists. With the pandemic, my concentration plunged--so the publication of this book was great timing, and not only because 2020 is the 100th anniversary of the 19th Amendment.

  5. 5 out of 5

    Kim

    Dionne has done something amazing with Lifting as We Climb: I STRUGGLED to finish it. Every page has something that sends me off on a learning mission! Not like "do your homework." Like "I want to know more!" This is a narrative nonfiction masterpiece for all ages. Dionne has done something amazing with Lifting as We Climb: I STRUGGLED to finish it. Every page has something that sends me off on a learning mission! Not like "do your homework." Like "I want to know more!" This is a narrative nonfiction masterpiece for all ages.

  6. 4 out of 5

    kate

    Written in a way that’s accessible, readable and incredibly informative, Lifting As We Climb is a must read for anyone wanting the full picture of the Suffragist movement in the US and the countless extra back breaking and dangerous hurdles Black specifically came up against, especially in comparison to white women. This is the kind of book that should be a staple in all libraries and schools.

  7. 5 out of 5

    Alicia

    Strong YA book about black women’s contributions to women’s suffrage and the unique situations they were placed in that were racially and socially unacceptable. The flow worked and the biographical profiles added a layer to the storytelling as it walks through history- the kind that no one gets to read in the textbook.

  8. 4 out of 5

    Mary Lee

    Fascinating, inspiring, educational, important...and depressing that voter suppression CONTINUES. I tagged this adult and YA for the cover-to-cover reading experience, but the index will make this valuable in supplementing picture book biographies about Ida B. Wells, Fannie Hamer, Frederick Douglass and others.

  9. 4 out of 5

    Halle Kathleen

    All the heroines missing from your gaslit history textbooks can be found between the bindings of this book

  10. 5 out of 5

    Kristin

    Interesting but read kind of like a text book.

  11. 5 out of 5

    Kristen

    5 Stars! "Suffrage was an important goal for Black women's clubs as a tool to help them redress larger issues, such as abuse in the judicial system, being lynched, and not being able to get ahead financially. Getting the right to vote wasn't the end goal; improving the lives of African Americans was." Lifting As We Climb is the story of the obstacles and challenges that Black women faced (still face!) securing their right to vote. Evette Dionne does a phenomenal job of tying in abolition, suffrag 5 Stars! "Suffrage was an important goal for Black women's clubs as a tool to help them redress larger issues, such as abuse in the judicial system, being lynched, and not being able to get ahead financially. Getting the right to vote wasn't the end goal; improving the lives of African Americans was." Lifting As We Climb is the story of the obstacles and challenges that Black women faced (still face!) securing their right to vote. Evette Dionne does a phenomenal job of tying in abolition, suffrage, and civil rights into a timeline that explores the overlooked history of Black women during these time periods. I would highly recommend this book to anyone wanting to learn more about the important roles that Black women played in history outside of the white-washed perspective that if often seen in school history books.

  12. 4 out of 5

    Stephanie Bolton

    From the battle for emancipation to the fight for the 19th Amendment, Jim Crow, and beyond Lifting as We Climb highlights the struggles and victories of courageous Black women fighting to have a voice in their government. Not only does Dionne highlight courageous women that are often overlooked by mainstream history, but she also shows how Black women were so often discriminated against by White Suffragists and male Black activists. Overall the book is beautifully written and researched. A subje From the battle for emancipation to the fight for the 19th Amendment, Jim Crow, and beyond Lifting as We Climb highlights the struggles and victories of courageous Black women fighting to have a voice in their government. Not only does Dionne highlight courageous women that are often overlooked by mainstream history, but she also shows how Black women were so often discriminated against by White Suffragists and male Black activists. Overall the book is beautifully written and researched. A subject with such a wide scope can be unwieldy and Dionne manages it with grace. The use of “boxes” to give more real estate, background, and context to people, groups, and events that fell outside the narrative really deepened the reading experience, though the placement and number (especially in the first chapter) sometimes disrupted the narrative. A must buy for my collection. Would recommend to students across all divisions.

  13. 5 out of 5

    Sandy Brehl

    The first chapter title sets the stage for the rest of the book: NOT THE HISTORY YOU LEARNED IN SCHOOL, but also underscores the horrific irony that asks the essential American question: WHY? WHY haven't we all been taught about these necessary, empowering, heartbreaking and inspiring Black women who overcame the horrific obstacles and threats and countless ways America (White America, Male America, Power America) tried to deny them their rights and humanity. Well, it is all here, to be taught and The first chapter title sets the stage for the rest of the book: NOT THE HISTORY YOU LEARNED IN SCHOOL, but also underscores the horrific irony that asks the essential American question: WHY? WHY haven't we all been taught about these necessary, empowering, heartbreaking and inspiring Black women who overcame the horrific obstacles and threats and countless ways America (White America, Male America, Power America) tried to deny them their rights and humanity. Well, it is all here, to be taught and shared and discussed. Get on it, stay on it, and begin to undo the damage of racism and mysogyny. Please.

  14. 5 out of 5

    Judy Ripke

    I learned so much from this book. There were so many black women fighting not just for the vote, but for fair treatment of all black citizens. I need to read books like this, as my school history texts sure did not tell the whole story.

  15. 5 out of 5

    Relena_reads

    This is an important corrective to the lack of Black Women in the history books. Even women who are covered, like Mary McLeod-Bethune, become full people here. It was a disconcerting listen as an audiobook, as chapters are titled for women, but I learned how to listen to it.

  16. 5 out of 5

    Nancy Miller

    Really looking forward to using this with my seniors when we discuss voting!

  17. 5 out of 5

    Deana Metzke

    A consice read that is full of little known history. A good resource to learn more about women like Ida Wells-Barnett and Sojourner Truth.

  18. 5 out of 5

    JaNel

    This should be on everyone’s reading list.

  19. 4 out of 5

    Samantha

    If you thought that the right to vote was fought only by white women, think again. This book will introduce you to the many black women who fought for that right, before the 19th amendment and afterward. Dionne examines the intersection of getting Black men the vote vs white women (or all women, or all people), and shows the way voting for people of color was suppressed after Reconstruction, through the Civil Rights era, and into the present day. An important book for people to read. Purely on a If you thought that the right to vote was fought only by white women, think again. This book will introduce you to the many black women who fought for that right, before the 19th amendment and afterward. Dionne examines the intersection of getting Black men the vote vs white women (or all women, or all people), and shows the way voting for people of color was suppressed after Reconstruction, through the Civil Rights era, and into the present day. An important book for people to read. Purely on a personal level--I need to remind myself to read sidebars after reading the full text. The formatting of this book was a little hard for me, especially with the black boxes with small white text. I wonder how the audio handles it.

  20. 5 out of 5

    Scott

    A compact, thorough summary of voting rights from our country’s inception through 2018. I wasn’t aware this book was written for middle-grade readers until afterward, and this explains the odd editorial choices: mixed font sizes, abrupt insertions of civil rights leaders’ biographies, and verbose language. I loved the attention placed on key figures who pushed equality forward! I listened to the author speak at Portland’s Book Festival and she was very engaging and passionate about her work. You A compact, thorough summary of voting rights from our country’s inception through 2018. I wasn’t aware this book was written for middle-grade readers until afterward, and this explains the odd editorial choices: mixed font sizes, abrupt insertions of civil rights leaders’ biographies, and verbose language. I loved the attention placed on key figures who pushed equality forward! I listened to the author speak at Portland’s Book Festival and she was very engaging and passionate about her work. You can tell she put a lot of time into piecing together history in this easy-to-digest book.

  21. 5 out of 5

    Julie

    This book is fantastic!!! It's written clearly and manages to squeeze a ton of information into a small book while not being at all overwhelming. It's *perfect* for ages 9+ as it is not graphic while still being honest about the horrible realities of racism against black women. And while it's clear about the racism black women have faced (and face), it is more about a celebration of the work and love given by America's black suffragettes. Cannot recommend highly enough! Please read and read with This book is fantastic!!! It's written clearly and manages to squeeze a ton of information into a small book while not being at all overwhelming. It's *perfect* for ages 9+ as it is not graphic while still being honest about the horrible realities of racism against black women. And while it's clear about the racism black women have faced (and face), it is more about a celebration of the work and love given by America's black suffragettes. Cannot recommend highly enough! Please read and read with your children!

  22. 4 out of 5

    Samantha Ania

    This is powerful and frustrating. I grew up idolizing white suffragette's and it's criminal that I wasn't taught all the rest. The black women who fought alongside them, the racism the white suffragettes chose, and the intersectionality of Jim Crow and poverty that the black suffragette's had to contend with. For them it had to always be about race AND gender. Voting rights were tied up in all of their civil rights and disenfranchisement. And instead of backing their sisters, most of the white w This is powerful and frustrating. I grew up idolizing white suffragette's and it's criminal that I wasn't taught all the rest. The black women who fought alongside them, the racism the white suffragettes chose, and the intersectionality of Jim Crow and poverty that the black suffragette's had to contend with. For them it had to always be about race AND gender. Voting rights were tied up in all of their civil rights and disenfranchisement. And instead of backing their sisters, most of the white women turned their backs. I'm glad to learn about them and their struggle and glad the epilogue chronicles the way voting rights are stripped from black people right now, currently.

  23. 4 out of 5

    Ari (Books. Libraries. Also, cats.)

    This is an excellent YA nonfiction book that I'll definitely be purchasing for my library's collection & recommending to teen readers! Evette Dionne makes the subject super accessible for teens and highlights so many important Black women activists that have been left out of traditional US History curriculums. This should be required reading in US History classes. This is an excellent NF title, not just for teens, but for adult readers who have difficulty getting into NF. It's fairly short, has a This is an excellent YA nonfiction book that I'll definitely be purchasing for my library's collection & recommending to teen readers! Evette Dionne makes the subject super accessible for teens and highlights so many important Black women activists that have been left out of traditional US History curriculums. This should be required reading in US History classes. This is an excellent NF title, not just for teens, but for adult readers who have difficulty getting into NF. It's fairly short, has a strong & engaging voice, and is an accessible read. I listened to the audiobook, which was a nice short length at just under 5 hours, and highly recommend that format.

  24. 5 out of 5

    Libriar

    An important book that belongs in every middle and high school library. It's also a great entry point for adults to learn more about the obstacles that were placed in the way of Black women - often by white suffragists - to fight for their right to vote. The only reason that I'm giving it 4 stars is because the individual biographies of each woman broke up the text which made the book read more like a text book than narrative nonfiction. An important book that belongs in every middle and high school library. It's also a great entry point for adults to learn more about the obstacles that were placed in the way of Black women - often by white suffragists - to fight for their right to vote. The only reason that I'm giving it 4 stars is because the individual biographies of each woman broke up the text which made the book read more like a text book than narrative nonfiction.

  25. 4 out of 5

    Cynthia (Bingeing On Books)

    Fantastic read about many parts of history that I was not aware of. This book outlines the long road that any black women took in order to get the right to vote. They were shut out of the woman's suffrage movement on several levels so that white women could focus on THEIR right. They weren't very interested in including black women in the fight. This should definitely be required reading. Fantastic read about many parts of history that I was not aware of. This book outlines the long road that any black women took in order to get the right to vote. They were shut out of the woman's suffrage movement on several levels so that white women could focus on THEIR right. They weren't very interested in including black women in the fight. This should definitely be required reading.

  26. 5 out of 5

    Ellen Pederson

    Lifting as We Climb is necessary reading for anyone interested in US history, and should be on the shelf in any collection where books on women's suffrage can be found. Devastating, frustrating, and inspiring... It would be a solid 5 stars, but the format of mini-bios and other featured pages often broke up the main text, making it hard to focus. Still 100% would recommend. Lifting as We Climb is necessary reading for anyone interested in US history, and should be on the shelf in any collection where books on women's suffrage can be found. Devastating, frustrating, and inspiring... It would be a solid 5 stars, but the format of mini-bios and other featured pages often broke up the main text, making it hard to focus. Still 100% would recommend.

  27. 5 out of 5

    Mike

    The title of the book speaks for itself. Concise, thorough, thoughtful, and easy to follow. This short book is about the long history of American Black Women drive for full rights to vote. What is taking it so long? White racism and fears...

  28. 4 out of 5

    Sugarpuss O'Shea

    This is what I like to call a worm-hole book -- i.e. a book that compels you to want to learn more. Outside of Sojourner Truth, Harriet Tubman, Ida B Wells, & Mary Church Terrell, I didn't really know any of the other women of color in this book. And that's a crime. I relish the day when our history will not be told as Black history or White history, but as AMERICAN history. Until that day comes however, I am indebted to Ms Dionne for introducing us to these badass women. Thank you. This is what I like to call a worm-hole book -- i.e. a book that compels you to want to learn more. Outside of Sojourner Truth, Harriet Tubman, Ida B Wells, & Mary Church Terrell, I didn't really know any of the other women of color in this book. And that's a crime. I relish the day when our history will not be told as Black history or White history, but as AMERICAN history. Until that day comes however, I am indebted to Ms Dionne for introducing us to these badass women. Thank you.

  29. 4 out of 5

    Heather

    Dnf. Library loan ran out.

  30. 5 out of 5

    Beverlee

    In the current age of diversity, equity, and inclusion this is a book that should be a part of US history curriculum for secondary school. I teach 8th graders and they have been more than honest in expressing their lack of interest in history. When I asked why, the answer I got most often was they feel its irrelevant to their lives. My initial reaction was somewhere between how do I get them to see how wrong they are and a sense of dread because I know I have specific (arguably vague) standards In the current age of diversity, equity, and inclusion this is a book that should be a part of US history curriculum for secondary school. I teach 8th graders and they have been more than honest in expressing their lack of interest in history. When I asked why, the answer I got most often was they feel its irrelevant to their lives. My initial reaction was somewhere between how do I get them to see how wrong they are and a sense of dread because I know I have specific (arguably vague) standards to follow. One of my goals for holiday break was to read and find ways to stay authentic to me while encouraging a love of history. On a completely random stop at Ollie's I find Lifting as We Climb and I think this is exactly what I'm looking for. A history book that isn't preachy, that clearly explains what's often left out of history text-the many roles African American women played creating a just society that's threatened every day by those who are trying to uphold the status quo of whitewashing history to elevate a single story. Lifting as We Climb, the motto of the NACW (National Association of Colored Women) and a quote attributed to its leader, Mary Church Terrell, is an apt description of how Black women contribute to society. This book specifically focuses on suffrage or the right to vote. I remember as a young student this was taught oh so briefly with a mention of Susan B. Anthony. Evette Dionne begins with Black abolitionist women such as Harriet Jacobs, Sojourner Truth, and Maria Stewart and how they fought to end slavery. One thing I think is important to consider is how these women were going against what was considered acceptable behavior for women (beginning of African American feminist theory plus the cult of true womanhood) yet their fight was not just for them it's for everyone. While suffrage is the key point, Dionne includes the African American women's club movement and how these clubs served multiple purposes, such as how to properly clean and care for a home and family and kindergartens and nurseries being available regardless of ability to pay. Looking at this through a contemporary lens, it reeks of respectability politics to assume that being poor equates to not being able to care for your family. This is another argument for another day, but I appreciate Dionne's honesty in including this piece of the story. Throughout the book there are pictures and short vignettes of individual women who stand out because of their accomplishments such as Mary McLeod Bethune, Nannie Helen Burroughs, Anna Julia Cooper, Ida B. Wells-Barnett, and Amelia Boynton Robinson. It's amazing and disheartening to realize that the work of these amazing women is overlooked simply because they are Black women. After reading Lifting as We Climb, I am reminded that their story doesn't have to remain untold.

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