Unceasing Militant: The Life of Mary Church Terrell

Univ. of North Carolina. Dec. 2020. 464p. ISBN 9781469659381. $35. BIOG
Making special use of the surviving personal letters of Mary Church Terrell (1863–1954), Parker (American history, Univ. of Delaware) confronts the daunting task of chronicling a long life that saw the end of slavery, the beginning of the modern Civil Rights movement, and everything in between. This well-researched biography sheds insight into Terrell’s complicated relationship with her parents, loving marriage, and trials of motherhood, yet her work as a groundbreaking activist is always in the forefront. Terrell remained committed to equality, overcame adversity, and was eager to be a part of history; Parker captures these elements of her subject beautifully. The sheer number of organizations to which Terrell belonged and the many events she is remembered for can be overwhelming, and Parker’s succinct introductions and conclusions in each chapter are helpful for keeping track of key details. The author also provides context for political decisions Terrell made throughout her career and the interpersonal nature of activist work.
VERDICT Terrell is an understudied figure in American history, and this biography is well suited for scholars of history and women’s studies as well as aspiring agents of change.

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