Blackbirds Singing: Inspiring Black Women’s Speeches from the Civil War to the Twenty-First Century

New Pr. Jan. 2024. 256p. ISBN 9781620976289. $27.99. HIST
In folklore, singing blackbirds presage good news and joy. But the words of the 28 Black women social-justice advocates that Bell (Lighting the Fires of Freedom: African American Women in the Civil Rights Movement) assembles in this book express little cheer. Speaking truth to power, they convey the rude realities, undaunted courage, and prescient prescriptions of Black women, challenging the confines of sexism, racism, materialism, and classism. Organized chronologically by the orator’s birth year, from Sojourner Truth (1797–1883) to Ruby Nell Sales (born in 1948), the speeches testify frankly to how things are and could and should be if the United States would honor equal, civil, and human rights. They are against oppression, and they collectively advocate for an inclusive humanity that recognizes common bonds in pursuits for progress. They advocate to end enslavement, stop lynching and police brutality, promote universal education, stand up for children, exercise genuine democracy, and cease U.S. militarism. Bell’s incisive introductions to the speeches provide biography and context for the groundwork these Black women have done to advance human rights.
VERDICT A book to read, reread, use as a reference, share, explain, and inspire the continuing struggles of Black women to achieve wholeness for themselves, their communities, and their society.
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