Conveying the Search for Justice

Sylvia Bell White tells the story of her brother’s wrongful death

When Sylvia Bell White’s brother was gunned down by Milwaukee police in 1958, the truth was as plain as the knife in his hand. Dan, an African American, was left-handed; officers said he’d had a knife in his right hand. That the knife was planted was finally proven in 1984, the year the Bell family, devastated by the initial justifiable homicide ruling, won a $1.6 million civil rights lawsuit.

With the help of co-author Jody LePage of Madison, Bell White, of Watertown, tells her story in Sister: An African American Life in Search of Justice (University of Wisconsin Press, $27.95).

In transcribed recordings, Bell White details her life journey from impoverished Jim Crow Louisiana to racially charged Milwaukee. LePage intersperses richly researched historical context on the twentieth-century African American experience, from the Great Migration to the Civil Rights and Black Power movements. And LePage helps convey and lend context to Bell White’s deep convictions about family, education and racism.

Karyn Saemann is a Madison-based freelance editor and book reviewer.

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