Republican Presidential candidate, Herman Cain, recently stated that Black people’s ignorance is the sole reason they will not—as a political group—support the agenda of the Republican Party. Actually, Herman Cain is the ignorant one. He is woefully unqualified to give any expert insight into the voting practices of African-Americans. First of all, the political past of the African-American is, unfortunately, peppered with horrific inflictions perpetrated through unjust legislation within state governments across this country. Furthermore, this voting population has an extremely unique relationship with the federal government of the United States. You see, it was the federal government’s—though shamefully limited at times—intervention in behalf of its Black citizenry’s constitutional rights that has assisted in freeing them from the tyranny of unjust perpetrators under the guise of state law. Both of these important viewpoints provide the necessary clarity to anyone who sincerely longs for truth that may fodder an informed opinion as to why African Americans choose to vote the way they do.
Hence, Ida B. Wells’s book, Crusade for Justice, is an excellent prescription to the Herman Cain type of ignorance. He desperately needs to read this book. It is a detailed eyewitness account of the atrocities dealt former slaves who were on the move upward politically, financially, educationally and socially during the Reconstruction Period. In her own words she said, “This book of history was written so that an authentic account could be rendered concerning the stress immediately following the Civil War, of the Ku Klux Klan, of ballot-box stuffing, wholesale murders of (Black people) who tried to exercise their new found rights as free men and citizens.” She had no way of knowing this great work would one day become a primary source of those times and accomplish her goal. Wells in the first person puts you into the times in which she lived. It is good this work was not a biography–there is no way a biography on these matters would have given the same clarity and insight.
Wells was five years old when slavery ended. She organizes the beginning chapters around this fact, explaining in vivid detail what it was like to be a slave as a child and what it was like when the historical emancipation took place in the South. Furthermore, she takes the reader on a thoroughly organized journey on being born and growing up in Mississippi during the Civil War. Next, she recounts how her parents, who were married as slaves, remarried each other as free persons after the war. Shortly thereafter, when Wells was but 16 years old, both her parents die and she finds herself the head of a household with five younger children. This part of her life would shape her politics and community activism indefinitely.
Wells was a courageous, determined and intelligent woman. She went on to be highly educated, always connecting the importance of politics and education with the prominent success of African Americans during the Reconstruction Period—before the political Carpetbaggers pushed their agenda of the infamous Jim Crow laws. She goes on to inform the reader of the true motives behind the Jim Crow laws being ushered in throughout the South and North in America, primarily to abolish the vote of Black people altogether. According to Wells, “Mississippi was the first southern state to set at naught by (state) law the provisions of the Fourteenth and Fifteenth Amendments to the Constitution of the United States.” She became a crusader against these particular tactics, working with many others to inform the Black community on voting rights and related issues throughout the country that would help shape them into a united political force. Eventually Jim Crow laws drove her to the North, Chicago. It was there that she became a phenomenal national/international political leader, uniting the Black vote through multiple strategies that would be built upon by coming generations and affect lasting change for her people.
All who wish to be rid of the Herman Cain type of ignorance need a good dose of Ida B. Wells. The only shortcoming of her autobiography is that Wells is redundant in a few places throughout. However, her eye witness account of this important time in American history coupled with the opportunity to understand the political period—perhaps the corner stone of developing the Black vote best practices—far outweighs this minor flaw. Be warned, this work is for those who relish truth. It is brutally honest at times and, yet, refreshingly transparent. It is absolutely just what the good doctor orders.
For assistance in obtaining this book within the Greenwood Village, CO area or throughout the United States, go to