Vanguard: How Black Women Broke Barriers, Won the Vote, and Insisted on Equality for All

Basic. Sept. 2020. 352p. ISBN 9781541618619. $30. SOC SCI
Beginning with her own history as a descendant of enslaved people, Jones (history, Johns Hopkins Univ.; Birthright Citizens) shares stories of women in her family who created paths to political power as freedom did not lead to liberty or dignity. This standout social history shows how the 19th Amendment did not guarantee Black women the right to vote—state laws, including literary tests, poll taxes, and restrictions on descendants of enslaved people, were implemented to suppress turnout. Jones masterfully outlines how Black women used the pen, pulpit, and podium to share information in the 19th and 20th centuries, and how teaching each other how to read and write was the greatest form of resistance. Moving chapters follow journalist Mary Ann Shadd Cary, poet and orator Frances Ellen Watkins Harper, educators Charlotte Forten Grimké and Mary Church Terrell, and writers Harriet Jacobs and Anna Julia Cooper, among others, as they sought to link voting rights to civil rights. Notably, Jones recounts how these women, and others, such as Fannie Lou Hamer, faced danger for their visibility while often being ignored by white suffragists.
VERDICT A necessary, insightful book that shines light on Black women underexplored in history. Jones writes narrative nonfiction at its best.

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