The Spark

the Voice of
The Communist League of Revolutionary Workers–Internationalist

“The emancipation of the working class will only be achieved by the working class itself.”
— Karl Marx

Book Review:
A Sword among Lions
by Paula J. Giddings, 2009

Feb 26, 2024

This book is the definitive biography of Ida B. Wells-Barnett. Ida was born into slavery in Mississippi in 1862. After her parents died when she was 16, she tried to provide for as many of her seven siblings as possible by becoming a teacher in Memphis. As Jim Crow repression reversed the opening of Reconstruction, she narrowly escaped death and moved to Chicago.

She became an advocate for all freedom from oppression, including women’s rights, but was particularly forceful in writing and speaking all over the country about the horrors and injustice of lynching. The pamphlets she wrote and distributed were painstakingly detailed and made the truth clear to all. She and her husband, a defense lawyer, used their own money to fight these battles.

In Elaine, Arkansas, sharecroppers had dared to organize for their just share of their work growing cotton. The owners retaliated by organizing a race riot, and hundreds of sharecroppers were murdered—but only the surviving sharecroppers were charged and imprisoned. Through her tireless organizing efforts, they were released and charges were dropped.

Ida B. Wells Barnett was an incredible fighter and leader of all, especially the hopeless and forgotten.