From Liberty to Magnolia: Janice S. Ellis
Thomas Jefferson was the principal author of the Declaration of Independence. The Declaration states, “We hold these Truths to be self-evident, that all Men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Happiness” All men are created equal and there are certain unalienable rights that governments should never violate. These rights include the right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. When a government fails to protect those rights, it is not only the right, but also the duty of the people to overthrow that government.
In this debut memoir, a business executive and newspaper columnist recounts her path from a Mississippi farm to high-level positions in the Midwest, contending with racism and gender discrimination.” When you read these words and hear them every time you read them out loud or they are taught to children in schools today, you realize that they have been forgotten in many ways and that everyone needs to remember that All Men and Women are created equal, so why are some considered less?
From Liberty to Magnolia takes us back to the 50’s and 60’s and introduces us to our author, a black child who lived on a farm with her family in the segregated South. Janice Ellis was smart, determined and at the age of 14 she struck out on her own and was determined to not live on a farm but become a commentator mirroring the skills and demeanor or Eric Severeid and Walter Lippmann. She was determined to soar but first she introduces us to her family, her parents, grandparents, sisters and brothers and we learn about her struggles, her failed marriages and her two amazing sons, as she refused to back down, dealt with adversity only to finally achieve her goals. Marrying young was an obstacle for her and the two sons while married to Thomas felt the abuse, the discord and the fact that he did nothing to contribute to the family and the relationship was toxic. But, this never got her down and even though she was in college and had to be the primary breadwinner, mother, caretaker and more she never faltered and never veered from her goals.
Goals were set from the start as soon as she entered school and when she graduated college Janice did not stop there she went forged ahead to get many degrees. Graduating with a 3.8 GPA bothered her as she was a student that wanted a 4.0 and in her own mind she wanted to strive for the top at all times.
Women’s rights and the civil rights movements were just two of the causes that she took up plus the rights of women in the work place. Today as back then women endured as we see on the news daily sexual harassment but she reminds us of segregation, cross burnings in front of her house and the defeatist attitudes some had but not her. With a family to support her goals she soared. The incident where her father’s friend was killed because he was involved in increasing voter registration fueled her energies to hope for equality for everyone and the right to vote.
The story continues with how she met Eric Sevareid and how this changed her life because she mirrored her radio commentaries called The Janice Anderson Outlook after his style. That worked for a while until she got divorced and she tells us about how she began working for the Mayor and that he asked her to leave this radio position to work in the City Hall Information Booth which required her skills.
Janice received many opportunities in various corporations and working with the Mayor. Running for Mayor gave her a incite into politics even though she lost the primaries by a small margin. Working at the radio station her shows began with Politics as a Spectator Sport, Busing is Not the Issue in School Desegregation, Stress Like Lie, Must Be Managed and many other controversial topics. The Equal Rights Amendment passed by both houses of the U.S. Congress in 1972, but was still awaiting ratification by five more states. By the close of 2016, the ERA amendment still had not been ratified or made part of the Constitution.
Women back then focused on improving their status in the workplace and not only in terms of getting higher positions available to them but equal pay. A gripping topic that she aired that applies to young people today is After College Now What? Creating her own magazine was a first and having it placed as an insert in many newspapers lasted only a short time due to the low volume of newspaper sales. The chapter titled Unavoidable Collisions is quite compelling and deals with the struggles she faces in relationships and in working for one company called where her promotion was denied and she questioned why. Reading that chapter you will have to learn the answers for yourself mainly the section titled: Rebuffed Sexual Advances and the Living Hell that Followed. But, she had met Frank and she is still married to him after 30 years. The Epilogue sums it up and once again allows readers to understand the messages that she is trying to convey like the Civil Rights Act and will skin color ever cease to be a barrier of entry, preventing them or their skills from simply not the same for other racial and ethnic groups as they are and have been for blacks. Dark skinned people she states are discriminated against, marginalized and disenfranchised not just in America, but in countries hear and far. Her focus and other messages were on the right to vote, other rights and privileges afforded to white people and her love of books and the power of her words. Throughout the book we learn that she would never stand down, she would not allow herself to be knocked down, she would not tolerate racial segregation and she would make sure her voice would be heard. “ My life is a testament that real change comes slowly, in small increments, and often for the few rather than the masses. But what choice do we have but to continue?” Determined, educationally oriented, disheartened when her family at times did not support her goals, with the help of her husband, Frank and her two sons she will surely continue to soar and have her voice heard. As written on the back cover: From Liberty to Magnolia shows readers, especially aspiring women and minorities-with whom her story will have special resonance-how to navigate and ultimately embrace the challenges at all every major crossroads and be triumphant. Janice S. Ellis M.A., M.A., PH.D. Has been an executive throughout her career, government, then in a large pharmaceutical company, and later as a present and CEO of a marketing firm. She has been writing columns for more than four decades on race, politics, education and other social issues for newspapers and more. From Liberty to Magnolia is America’s Promise. Added to the end of the book are discussion questions for reading groups, book clubs and several appendices that will allow you to hear her commentaries as you read them. Informative, informational, historical and replete in history Janice S. Ellis’s voice is heard and her thoughts come through loud and clear.
Fran Lewis: Just reviews/MJ magazine