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  • Author Jody LePage to Present Story that Shaped Civil Rights History
For Immediate Release
February 12, 2014

Author Jody LePage to Present Story that Shaped Civil Rights History

Key Info

Jody LePage, coauthor of the book Sister: An African American Life in Search of Justice
• February 18, 6 p.m., Walb Union Ballroom.
• Book discussion, February 12, noon–1:15 p.m., Walb Student Union, Room 114
• These events are free and open to the public

FORT WAYNE, Ind.—After the murder of her brother in 1958, Sylvia Bell White relocated to Los Angeles, far away from the "justifiable homicide" verdict that resulted in the acquittal of the two police officers who killed her brother, Daniel Bell. It wasn't until 1998 that Bell White started to write her story, along with the help of historian Jody LePage.

Dr. LePage will make an appearance Tuesday, February 18, at Indiana University–Purdue University Fort Wayne (IPFW) during African American Heritage Month to present the Bell family's story through her novel Sister: An African American Life in Search of Justice. The presentation takes place at 6 p.m. in the Walb Union Ballroom.

The novel tells the story of Daniel Bell's murder, the police officers who tried to cover it up, and a sister's determination to be heard. Bell White's story is set against the background of twentieth century race relations in the United States. Themes of racism, police brutality, and a quest for justice swirl through this true story.

"Raised with 12 brothers in a part of the segregated South that provided no school for African American children through the 1940s, Sylvia Bell White went North as a teenager, dreaming of a nursing career. When a Milwaukee police officer killed her younger brother Daniel Bell in 1958, the Bell family suspected a racial murder but could do nothing to prove it—until 20 years later, when one of the two officers unexpectedly came forward. Daniel’s siblings filed a civil rights lawsuit against the city and ultimately won that 4-year legal battle. Sylvia was the driving force behind their quest for justice."

"Jody LePage’s chapter introductions frame the narrative in a historical span that reaches from Sylvia’s own enslaved grandparents to the nation’s first African American president," states the University of Wisconsin press release for Sister: An African American Life in Search of Justice. "Giving depth to that wide sweep, this oral history brings us into the presence of an extraordinary individual. Rarely does such a voice receive a hearing."

A book discussion will be held prior to LePage's presentation on Wednesday, February 12, in Walb Student Union, Room 114 from noon to 1:15 p.m. Copies of Sister: An African American Life in Search of Justice are available in the IPFW Bookstore.

These events are free and open to the public and are sponsored by the IPFW Office of Diversity and Multicultural Affairs (ODMA), International Language and Culture Studies (ILCS), and the Women's Studies Program.

For more information contact Laurie Corbin 260-481-4167 or corbin@ipfw.edu.

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