Copyright 1995 ABC-CLIO. This review was taken from the ABC-CLIO Video Rating Guide for Libraries on CD-ROM, a 5-year compilation of over 8900 video titles and reviews, 1990-1994. For information regarding order VRGL CD-ROM, contact: ABC-CLIO, P.O. Box 1911, Santa Barbara, CA 93116-1911; 805-968-1911

This following text has been included in the UCB Media Resources Center Web site with the kind permission of the publishers.

American Experience

  • Ida B. Wells - A Passion for Justice
  • Rating: *****
  • Audience: High School to Adult
  • Price: Public performance: $59.95
  • Date: Copyright 1989. Released 1989.
  • Descriptors: Women - History. Wells, Ida B.. Blacks - History. Lynching.
  • Production Information: Live action. Produced by Judy Crichton, William Greaves. Color. Closed captioned. 60 min.
  • Production Company: WGBH (Boston) WNET (New York) KCET-TV (Los Angeles)
  • Available from: PBS Video 1320 Braddock Pl. Alexandria, VA 22314-1698 (703)739-5380
  • ISBN: ISBN 0-7936-0076-6.
  • Cataloging: 973.8 Wells, Ida B.||United States - History - 1865-1898
  • Awards: Birmingham International Educational Film Festival Silver Electra, 1991.
  • Print Entry #: 1:1380
  • Reviewer: Ferne B. Hyman

    The American Experience is a television series covering many subjects, but all of them deal with some aspect of American history. Ida B. Wells is one more in this excellent series. David McCullough, the historian, narrates the series and brings a continuity to the presentation of each unit. The disconcerting part of the presentation is the inclusion of all the commercial additions to the story that appear on the televised program. The video series editors should exclude these coming attractions for the next broadcast, as well as the other PBS information given to at-home viewers.

    The story of Ida B. Wells is inspirational, instructive, and entertaining. This black woman, born into slavery just before the Emancipation Proclamation, lived through interesting and tumultuous times in US history. She proved to be a courageous member of the small but growing number of black middle-class citizens during the period after the Civil War who were striving to become part of American society. She became a schoolteacher at an early age to support her brothers and sisters after the death of her parents. She joined the black culture societies that were growing during this time and wrote for the newspapers published by these societies. As the free blacks were more and more becoming targets for suppression, Ida Wells, who developed a strong sense of justice and integrity, fought against the violence that accompanied the suppression and against the anti-Negro legislation gaining ground after Reconstruction in the South ended. Eventually, she became a full-time journalist, editing and writing for black newspapers in the South and elsewhere. Many of her influential writings appeared in the general press as well.

    Using the combination of narrative, interviews with writers, historians, and descendants, and stills from contemporary photographs, the production manages to instill a sense of excitement about the work and writings of this woman. Novelist Toni Morrison gives a dramatic reading directly from Ida Wells' memoirs.

    High school students should see this film. It depicts a time we should not gloss over, a past from which we should learn. This 60-minute production will hold the interest of any adult audience; I highly recommend it.

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