From Liberty to Magnolia: In Search of the American Dream by Janice S. Ellis, PhD

Synopsis - 

From Liberty to Magnolia: In Search of the American Dream vividly recounts the journey of an African-American woman from rural, segregated Mississippi through academia, corporate America, and politics. It is the story of how she triumphed even when, more often than not, the ugly realities of racism and sexism tried to deter her.

This book tells the broader story, too, of how her life epitomizes what the Civil Rights Act and Equal Rights Amendment have meant and have not meant for blacks and women as she has lived through their maturation during the last 50 years. What better time than now to examine how these two seminal and defining events played out in the life of an ordinary African-American woman who believed in all of America s promises?

What better moment than today to look deeply at the life of a woman who prepared herself and worked tirelessly to achieve her goals only to realize that many lay beyond her reach and that of most women and most blacks. 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 every major crossroads and be triumphant.

A Discussion Guide is included for use by book clubs, classes, and group discussions.

Review - 

I recently wrote a piece about how important it is for stories to be told by the people who lived them rather than by outside spectators.  This book is a perfect example. When the voice comes from the author's own life, the story has so much more truth and impact.

In the beginning, author Janice S. Ellis takes us back to her childhood where it all began on a farm in rural segregated Mississippi.  The personal experiences she shares as a young black child helps open a small window into what it is like to face racial discrimination.  This time in history comes alive through the stories shared of  her life, her family, her friends and her community during this shameful time in history. One schools mate's father was castrated. Another killed. Why? Because they were trying to register black voters.

After leaving home, we follow her along her driven journey to earn an education, have a family, get a good job and make a real difference in the world. All along the way are personal stories that highlight the influences of the time both socially and politically. From the lows of an abusive marriage to the highs of developing an economic program for a city and presenting it on an international stage, she does a wonderful job of bringing her story to life. And woven into this journey is her struggle trying to achieve success during a time when it was still thought women belonged in the home.

The author acknowledges how strong her drive to succeed was from a young age - which at one point had her juggling graduate school, working 2 jobs, raising her sons and writing commentary for a local radio, all on 4 hours sleep a night - as well as what a positive influence it was on her early life that her parents actually owned the farm they worked instead of having to work the fields of others.

I really enjoyed reading this title. The only part I found myself skipping through was a full chapter devoted to one of her major influences. While it was interesting, it seemed a distraction from the broader story being told.

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Meet The Author -

Janice Ellis, Ph.D, has been an executive throughout her career, first in government, then in a large pharmaceutical company, later as President and CEO of her own marketing firm, and finally as President and CEO of a bi-state non-profit child advocacy agency. Along with those positions, she has been writing columns for four decades on race, politics, education, and other social issues. They have appeared in a major metropolitan daily newspaper, The Kansas City Star; a major metropolitan business journal, The Milwaukee Business Journal; and for community newspapers The Milwaukee Courier, The Kansas City Globe, and The Kansas City Call. She began her career writing and delivering radio commentary for two years for one of the largest ABC radio affiliates in Wisconsin. Later in her career she wrote and delivered a two-minute spot on the two largest Arbitron-rated radio stations in the Greater Kansas City area. She has also written for several national trade publications, focusing on healthcare and the pharmaceutical industry.

Dr. Ellis published an online magazine,, for seven years dedicated to increasing understanding across race and ethnicity, in which she analyzed race and equality issues in America. The website continues to attract thousands of visitors per year. The site also has a vibrant Facebook page with fans numbering in the thousands. Five years ago, Dr. Ellis launched a companion site,, which aggregates news about race relations, racism, and discrimination from across the United States and around the world daily. Dr. Ellis also has her own website,, which houses a collection of her writings and where she continues to write about race inequality, gender inequality, politics, education, and other issues related to the inalienable rights of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.

Janice Ellis, a native daughter of Mississippi, grew up and came of age during the height of the Civil Rights Movement during the 1960s. Born and reared on a small cotton farm, she was influenced by two converging forces that would set the course of her life. The first was the fear and terror felt by blacks because of their seeking to exercise the right to vote along with other rights and privileges afforded to whites. The second was her love of books, the power of words, and her exposure to renowned columnists, Eric Sevareid and Walter Lippmann, whose work solidified her belief that the wise use of words is what advances the good society.

Janice Ellis became determined to take a stand, and not accept and allow the conditions of that farm life, or the strictures of oppressive racial segregation and entrenched sexism limit what she could become. She became determined to use whatever talents God had blessed her with and the power of words to help improve the human condition. FROM LIBERTY TO MAGNOLIA is her first book.

Connect with the author: Website ~ Twitter  ~ Facebook

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