Passionate for Justice

Ida B. Wells as Prophet for Our Time

Catherine Meeks & Nibs Stroupe, Foreword by Stacey Abrams

Sep/2019, 160 Pages, PAPER, 5.5 x 8.5

ISBN-13: 9781640651609



Winner of a Silver Medal - 2021 Illumination Book Awards

Audio book available on Audible, Apple Books, and Kobo. Listen to a sample.

"In Passionate for Justice, we find a compass that points us to the future, where we can each give voice and action to justice, equity, and life-giving community. Ida Wells would have had it no other way."
—From the Foreword by Stacey Abrams, 2018 Democratic Nominee for Governor of Georgia

Ida B. Wells was a powerful churchwoman and witness for justice and equity from 1878 to 1931. Born enslaved, her witness flowed through the struggles for justice in her lifetime, especially in the intersections of African Americans, women, and those who were poor. Her life is a profound witness for faith-based work of visionary power, resistance, and resilience for today's world, when the forces of injustice stand in opposition to progress.

These are exciting and dangerous times. Boundaries that previously seemed impenetrable are now being crossed. This book is a guide for the current state of affairs in American culture, enlivened by the historical perspective of Wells' search for justice.

The authors are an African-American woman and a child of white supremacy. Both have dedicated themselves to working, writing, and developing ministries oriented toward justice, equity, and mercy. This book can be used in all settings, but most especially in churches (pastors and other church leaders, study groups), seminaries, and universities.

Read an excerpt

CATHERINE MEEKS, PhD, is the retired Clara Carter Acree Distinguished Professor of Socio-Cultural Studies at Wesleyan College and the Director of the Absalom Jones Center for Racial Healing. She has long been a strong advocate for social justice, community, and wellness. She is the author of several books, including Living Into God’s Dream and Standing on Their Shoulders: A Celebration of the Wisdom of African-American Women

NIBS STROUPE retired in 2017 as pastor of Oakhurst Presbyterian Church, a nationally recognized leader in multicultural and racial justice ministry. He has written numerous articles for magazines, including The Atlantic online. He has written frequently for Westminster/John Knox’s Feasting on the Word series, and is a frequent contributor to Journal for Preachers. He is the author of four books.

“In some ways the book feels like the theological equivalent of Ibram X. Kendi’s How to Be an Antiracist.” 
—Rev. Dr. Douglas H. Brown Clark, The Christian Century

"In this hard-hitting yet heartfelt analysis, historians Meeks and Stroupe use Gilded Age reformer Ida B. Wells (1862–1931) as a touchstone for a discussion of 21st century racism. In simple language, Meeks and Stroupe present a cogent, persuasive blueprint for achieving racial justice and equality in America."
—Publishers Weekly

"In Passionate for Justice: Ida B. Wells as Prophet for Our Time, Catherine Meeks and Nibs Stroupe embark upon a brave and hopeful mission. Having come by separate life paths, this African-American woman and this white American man seek to stand together upon common ground, the revolutionary witness of an extraordinary, and too-little recalled black journalist and churchwoman. This would be an important book at any time, but it is critical for such a time as this."
—Leonard Pitts, winner of the Pulitzer Prize for Commentary, novelist and columnist

"Our nation needs this kind of wisdom now more than anything in a time of crisis and national moral failure. The progress of the past 50 years is so fragile. Here are two brave and honest southern voices—one black, one white—drawing wisdom from their own histories in a segregated society, seeking guidance in the words and deeds of a legendary defender of justice."
—Douglas A. Blackmon, winner of the Pulitzer Prize book Slavery By Another Name

"Ida B. Wells was a courageous truth-teller, and so too is this book. As Catherine Meeks and Nibs Stroupe tell the story of Wells, they deftly expose the truth about our nation, which our nation has long avoided—to its peril. This is the prescient truth of racial, gender and class privilege fueling the violence of lynching. Meeks and Stroupe have given us a book for all time. For those who seek the truth of who we are as a nation—Ida B. Wells: A Prophet for Our Time is a must read."
—The Very Reverend Kelly Brown Douglas, Ph.D., Dean of Episcopal Divinity School at Union Theological Seminary

"The authors take a unique and daring approach to narrating the life of Ida B. Wells. They draw parallels, lessons, and inspiration from Wells' encounters with injustice to illuminate and better understand their own struggles and encounters with racism and sexism. What makes this book so different from all earlier tributes to Wells is the fact that Meeks (a black woman) and Stroupe (a white man) are able to independently weave threads of insights from nearly a century earlier into accounts of their own very personal journeys. The approach is novel, the challenge is considerable – and the read is well worth it."
—Troy Duster, Chancellor's Professor Emeritus, University of California, Berkeley

"'What does it mean to be a liberated person?' We cannot move forward without answering that question and, for Meeks and Stroupe, we cannot answer that question without understanding who Ida B. Wells was, what she accomplished, and how vital her life and activism are to matters of justice in the twenty-first century. In this now of confusion in our nation and around the globe, Ida B. Wells is not among us, but, thanks to Meeks and Stroupe, she is voice, inspiration, courage, and conviction in this most special book!"
—Gloria Wade Gayles, Ph.D., Founding Director, The SIS Oral History Project
and RESONANCE in LEADS, The Center for Leadership and Civic Engagement, Spelman College

"Catherine Meeks and Nibs Stroupe are two excellent writers, historians, and astute cultural observers who have each published numerous books. That they have collaborated to write this book on Ida B. Wells is good news for all of us. Wells is one of our most important forbears whose life offers critical lessons for how to live with courage and determination in this particularly toxic era of a resurgence of violent white supremacy. Through these chapters, may Wells’ life and witness gain a wider audience and may her stunning witness move us to radical action on behalf of justice and the building of the Beloved Community."
—Murphy Davis and Ed Loring, Open Door Community, Baltimore, and Editors, Hospitality Newspaper

"This is a remarkable story of two overlapping worlds rooted in rural Arkansas—the world of an African American female and the world of a white male. These two Arkansans, standing side-by-side, look in the mirror of the life of Civil Rights leader Ida B. Wells and see themselves reflected in all their own distinctiveness. And what they see are the ways racism has and continues to distort us and how Wells'
life invites us to see not only our own stories but also our common humanity.
—Erskine Clarke, recipient of Columbia University's Bancroft Prize for his book Dwelling Place

"At the center of this book is the powerful legacy of Ida B. Wells and her relentless fight against racism and injustice. Through their reflections on her story, Catherine Meeks and Nibs Stroupe illuminate aspects of their own personal histories and contemporary struggles for racial equality. They offer something remarkable in today's political climate: an African-American woman and a white man with the ability to hear each other's stories with grace even as they press toward justice. Their frank dialogue is a model for others seeking interracial community and social change."
—Susan E. Hylen, associate professor of New Testament, Candler School of Theology, Emory University

“This re-telling of Ida B. Wells’s prophetic witness for justice in troubled times is a must read for individuals and communities of faith in the United States alarmed by the recent turn in our social and political ethos. The authors blend their readings of Well’s prophetic witness in the context of the Reconstruction and is aftermath with the impact of that witness upon their own very different, yet resonant, lives—an African American woman and a white man raised in the same segregated county in Arkansas—coming of age in the Civil Rights movement and its aftermath. The book highlights the striking similarities between Well’s Reconstruction and post-Reconstruction context and our own: the loss of political and social gains to the seemingly intractable forces of white supremacy, re-inventing and rebranding itself but always working for the same destructive purpose. The authors lift up Well’s life-long struggle for justice as a call to vigilance that is soberly realistic about the challenges of overcoming the deeply embedded reality of racism in our national DNA. Yet, it is a call stubbornly rooted in a hope that refuses to give up on the vision of the Beloved Community as the divine intention for all people. This book will be especially valuable to those called to the difficult task of working for justice together, across lines of race, gender, and class, in resistance and hope, in what the authors call our nation’s ‘third passage’ with regard to racism and white supremacy—a passage whose future remains in the balance.”
—Chris Boesel, PhD, Associate Professor of Christian Theology, Drew Theological School

“Sobering, searing and ultimately uplifting, this look at the life of Ida B Wells offers insight into not only one of America’s most ferocious social justice warriors but the authors own biographical recollections show how Wells’ witness is just as important today as it was yesterday.  The astonishing courage of Ida B. Wells comes through in this deeply insightful look at a woman that more people should know. The authors, Nibs Stroupe and Catherine Meeks, show how Wells’s battles against racism, sexism and balancing her life as a mom and an activist offers lessons for us today as well as insights into the past.
—John Blake, author of Children of the Movement and senior writer at

"This thoughtful, moving book is much more than a biography. Catherine Meeks and Nibs Stroupe offer deeply personal reflections on the meaning of Ida B. Wells for their lives—and ours. They remember Wells's witness and extend it with their own. And they offer a powerful call to join the struggle."
—Ted A. Smith, Professor of Preaching and Ethics, Candler School of Theology, Emory University

An Introduction to Ida B. Wells from Her Great-Granddaughter

1. “To the Seeker of Truth”
2. “Crusade for Justice”
3. “To Tell the Truth Freely”
4. “My Name Is Legion”
5. “At the Crossroads: Just Trying to Be Human”
6. “Order Our Steps”
7. Seeking the Beloved Community

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  • Stacy Abrams
  • justice
  • racial reconciliation
  • intersectionality
  • American history
  • current affairs

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