Paula Giddings Speaks at Howard University

Noted author speaks to interested communications student about new book

Last Tuesday, noted author and Smith College Afro-American Studies professor Paula Giddings addressed a room of about 40 in Howard University’s School of Communications. Giddings, who was on campus speaking of her newest book “Ida: A Sword Among Lions” detailed her reasons for selecting the arguably underrated Ida B. Wells. According to Giddings, Wells embodied characteristics that she herself did not, making the subject all the more interesting to research and write about. “I’ve always been fascinated by people’s courage-perhaps because I don’t have much myself,” commented Giddings to the room’s laughter. Although the book was recently released, Giddings admits that the book had been in the works for over 20 years. Giddings has previously written two books, and is now adding this third to her name. When and Where I Enter, was published in 1984, and chronicled the history of Black women’s political and racial activism in the United States. In 1988, the author released another book, chronicling the founding and importance of her sorority, Delta Sigma Theta Sorority Incorporated.Her time while speaking at Howard was consumed largely with a question and answer period with the students in attendance. She spoke mainly on the life and times of Ida B. Wells, and her reason for writing this book with such passion. Ida B. Wells was “…a biographer’s dream,” according to Giddings in her most recent book.”It’s pretty clear that [Giddings] learned a lot while writing this book,” commented senior mass communications major Alain Harper. “She was just spitting information out at us, as if she had been studying [Ida B. Wells] for her entire life…or at least for the past 20 years,” added Harper. Each question asked by a student in the audience was responded to with an in depth and passionate answer. Giddings undeniably found a friend in the late Wells while researching her life.Wells (1862-1931) is most notably known for her undying activism against racial lynching in America’s states during her lifetime. As an activist, she traveled the country, and worked alongside some of the other great activists of her time, including Susan B. Anthony who was a fellow woman suffragist. Wells was forced to leave the southern states by 1892, when she decided to seek help from possible allies. She traveled to the British Isles in 1892, where she rallied for their help in ending the lynching of Blacks. The British posed an excellent ally in Well’s case, for they were a major exporter of southern American cotton. Without their money spent on this cotton, the southern states would surely suffer. Upon marrying Mr. Ferdinand Barnett, Wells moved with her husband to the politically triumphant city of Chicago. There, Wells excelled in political activism, despite her unsuccessful run in national politics. She became one of the founders of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP), and continued to rally for racial and gender rights nearly until her untimely death in March of 1931. The culmination of her autobiography uniquely ends simply in midsentence, furthering Giddings notion that she was writing and working on equality until the “day she could no longer lift her hand.”Following her time speaking with the students in the School of Communications, Giddings ended her day with an appearance in the Howard University Bookstore, where she signed copies of her newest book for students and faculty.