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From Liberty to Magnolia: In Search of the American Dream

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From Liberty to Magnolia: In Search of the American Dream has received, and continues to receive, national and international recognition and awards since its debut in 2018. It is a true, powerful, and compelling story about the enduring scourge of racism and sexism in America. It is a personal account of how that bane of evil plays out in the lives of blacks and women despite the great promise of the American Dream being available to and achievable by everyone. It shows how, more often than not, access to the playing field and the rules of the game are not equally and fairly applied among men and women, blacks and whites, even when they come prepared with equal or better qualifications and value sets to play the game.

This book is also hopeful, filled with expectancy. From Liberty to Magnolia will help decent and fair-minded Americans—America as a nation—see how the country has been and continues to be enslaved by its own sense of freedom. This sense of freedom is one that boasts and finds it acceptable to persistently disrespect, deny, marginalize, and minimize the value of two of its largest and greatest assets—women and people of color—when there is overwhelming evidence throughout the landscape that shows America has everything to gain by embracing two groups that make up the majority of its citizenry.

From Liberty to Magnolia: In Search of the American Dream is written for Americans from all walks of life who care deeply about how our great nation can become even greater if we boldly and courageously face our internal, crippling, and unnecessary fear—the fear that we stand to lose rather than gain by embracing and extending mutual respect and supporting equal rights and equal opportunity for our fellow citizens regardless of their race or gender.

The book is a beacon for all who are concerned about America’s future and who want America’s children of all colors to realize their full potential. It will inform the racists and non-racists, the sexists and non-sexists. It will inspire and empower men and women who are in positions that can make a difference and have the will to do so—parents, teachers, policy makers, social and human rights activists, journalists, business leaders, faith leaders, and many others. Caring Americans, working together, can break the chains of racism and sexism that keep America bound.

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


First published February 1, 2018

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About the author

Janice S. Ellis

3 books54 followers
Janice S. Ellis, M.A., M.A., Ph.D., an award-winning author, is a native daughter of Mississippi, grew up and came of age during the height of the Civil Rights Movement and the Women’s Liberation Movement. 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 whites. She became determined to take a stand and not accept the limits of that farm life nor the strictures of oppressive racial segregation and gender inequality. She aspired to have and achieve a different kind of life—not only for herself, but for others.

The second was her love of books, the power of words, and her exposure to renowned columnists Eric Sevareid of The CBS Evening News with Walter Cronkite and Walter Lippmann, whose column appeared for more than three decades in over 250 major newspapers across the United States and another 50 newspapers in Europe and Asia.

It was the study of Lippmann’s books and commentary that inspired Dr. Ellis to complete a Master of Arts degree in Communication Arts, a second Master of Arts degree in Political Science, and a Doctorate of Philosophy in Communication Arts, all from the University of Wisconsin. It was during her course of study that Dr. Ellis’ unwavering belief—the belief that the wise use of words is what advances the good society—was solidified.

Dr. Ellis has been an executive throughout her career, first in government, then in a large pharmaceutical company, and later as a president and CEO of a marketing firm and a bi-state non-profit child advocacy agency. In addition to those positions, she has been writing columns for more than four decades on race, politics, education, and other social issues for newspapers, radio, and online.

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Displaying 1 - 30 of 78 reviews
Profile Image for Raymond.
330 reviews237 followers
June 2, 2020
Dr. Ellis' memoir chronicles her life story from rural Mississippi to her graduate work and municipal leadership in Wisconsin and to her work in the corporate world in Missouri. Ellis' life is a story of the challenges and triumphs of being a black woman, in a sense it's a story of intersectionality. I was mostly surprised when I read about her relationship with her first husband and the plexiglass barriers she faced when trying to move up in her professional life. I was very impressed that she mentioned names of the people who did her wrong, very courageous.
Profile Image for Stephen R..
100 reviews5 followers
January 26, 2019
“Liberty to Magnolia” is a fantastic book. When I first saw it, I thought it was historical fiction, but then realized it was the author’s true story, which made it even better. I enjoy reading autobiographies of people who have a different perspective than me, or who have had vastly different experiences – and a professional Black woman who grew up in the South fits the bill perfectly.

I enjoy reading about both race and the woman’s perspective because I’m often convinced that I’m blind to both. I’m the kind of person who generally doesn’t believe racism or the glass ceiling really exists, even though I might be perpetuating both without knowing it.

Janice Ellis’ story is extremely well-written, entertaining, and thought-provoking. I suppose it would be good for Blacks or Women to read, but they can already relate to Janice. So, I recommend it even more strongly for Whites and Men to read as an eye-opener.
Profile Image for Gail.
312 reviews3 followers
April 9, 2018
In this lovely book, Dr. Ellis describes her journey from a small farm in rural Mississippi to a high-powered job in corporate America and beyond. Along the way, she struggles with the dual challenges of being black and female; I don’t doubt that being a Southerner was a subtle barrier for her as well when she moved north to pursue education and work. The author expresses herself well and quickly draws you into her story. She paints a picture that feels vivid and real. This is a story that needs telling from a woman who both lived through and watched key events in contemporary Black and women’s history unfold in a way both personal and political.

Being from the same age cohort as the author, this book traveled terrain with which I am deeply familiar: the civil rights upheavals of the 60s, the assassination of Dr. King, the bursting of the women’s rights movement onto the scene in the 70s, as well as the shift from traditional health care delivery to managed care in the 80s and 90s. Superimposed on this dynamic and at times deeply disruptive period, was the life of a young girl who dreamed of a time when her words would inspire others to take up the banner of social justice and make a difference in the world. By any measure, Dr. Ellis beat incredible odds to achieve those childhood dreams. 

The tug Dr. Ellis experienced, trying to sort out when discrimination and mistreatment was due to her color or her gender, is one that now has a name: intersectionality. At the time, there was no such clarity and little in the culture or academy that helped women of color develop a positive identity. Janice, without any guidance beyond her own reading and experiences, struggled mostly alone yet incredibly successfully. Her journey was complicated by the impact of black male misogyny. She was subjected to serious physical and emotional abuse at the hands of men in her adult life; one was a husband, one a fiancé. How she managed to survive those relationships, complete a PhD program, successfully raise two sons, and achieve professional excellence is beyond imagining. It is a tribute to her drive and perseverance. For her, faith and her deep religious roots in the black church, were also instrumental to her ability to believe in a better future for herself and her family.

Throughout her life, Dr. Ellis has been writing (and at times, speaking as well). She is well-known for her political columns. Her decision to pursue self-expression and her purpose through writing a column was inspired by the commentary of Eric Sevareid and Walter Lippmann. Most writers pick a genre and rarely veer from it; their voice and rhythm fit their chosen writing vehicle. At times, the continuous narrative is disrupted by the author’s propensity to slip back into her writing comfort zone. As the momentum was building around her journey, she abruptly detours from her path in two chapters in Part II. She pursues an academic discussion of Mr. Lippmann and his career as a columnist; she sprinkles excerpts from her columns into this section as well. Other reviewers have commented on their difficulty with this part of the book. This decision to give an in-depth look into the man who inspired her detracts from her purpose - to write a memoir that connects people to her and enables them to feel inspired by her personal triumphs and challenges. In my view, the book would have been more effective if this material had been omitted.

That said, reading the selection of columns in the Appendices confirms that she is an excellent political columnist and capable of applying a sharp analytic mind to the issues of the day. Many of the things she wrote 30+ years ago are still relevant today. Her intent was to “evergreen” her columns, which is to say not make them specific to a single event but rather expose the systemic issues that were revealed in the day’s news. She clearly was able to succeed at that. I hope that she pursues putting together a book of new essays as well as some of her columns and perhaps revising this book in a second edition to tighten up the narrative of her personal life journey. 

Her narrative, while compelling, jumps around at times which leads to repetition, something others have noted too. I sense that at times she slips into writing columns about separate periods of her life, each with a different focus or message but supported with some of the same evidence from other chapters. While it doesn’t make the book hard to follow, it does interfere with the continuity of her narrative. A skilled editor might have helped minimize these issues in what is otherwise a well-written book.

I have enormous admiration for this woman and am grateful to her for writing this deeply personal book. With great courage, something she has in abundance, she exposes her struggles, even taking on how evolving attitudes towards female sexuality felt to a deeply religious Black woman of the South. She openly airs her disappointments when life didn’t go as planned and her fear about eventually remarrying. Through it all, she holds no grudges when she has good reason to do so. There is no question that she is an exceptional woman. It was eye-opening to learn what a black girl of 8 or 9 was thinking and feeling while this white girl of a similar age was also staring out the window and dreaming. My unearned privilege gave me a much easier go of it and my heart broke for that child a few states away from me who witnessed degradation and hate towards herself and her family. Thankfully, she not only survived, but thrived, and gave us all this wonderful story to inspire others.

Disclaimer: I received a free copy of the book in exchange for an honest review. My opinion, including pros and cons, is my own.
Profile Image for Stephanie Jane.
Author 2 books229 followers
March 27, 2018
See more of my book reviews on my blog, Literary Flits

I was delighted to be chosen to take part in this tour because I really wanted to read Janice Ellis's autobiography and I can honestly say that I wasn't disappointed. Ellis is a truly inspiring woman, determined and ultimately successful despite her two social disadvantages - being black and being female. Ellis came of age about sixty years after W E B Du Bois published his essay collection The Souls Of Black Folk so it was shocking for me to be reminded just how little progress had been made in black people's rights in over half a century. Ellis discusses the ongoing sharecropping labour system that Du Bois had witnessed beginning in the years immediately following American slavery's abolition. Du Bois also wrote of the debate over whether black people should be educated and to what level. Ellis demonstrates how such regressive attitudes were still very much in practice in the 1960s when even one of her college tutors made it painfully obvious that he didn't believe she should be in his class - and not because of a lack of intellectual ability either!

Reading of Ellis's fights to be taken seriously academically, professionally and even in her personal life allowed me to think over the opportunities I have had - and sometimes squandered - in my life. She writes in a very engaging way and I felt like she genuinely spoke to me through the pages of this book. Ellis shows that it is possible for courageous and single-minded people to break through social barriers of race or gender, but I found it saddening that it is still so very difficult. It is important that women such as Janice Ellis have the opportunity to tell their stories of breaking the mould, and that their efforts are widely recognised. From Liberty To Magnolia is well-written and, I think, would be appreciated by readers worldwide. Many of Ellis's struggles are not specific to America so she should (and hopefully will) be an inspiration to young women everywhere.
Profile Image for Daisey.
155 reviews
May 6, 2018
I thoroughly enjoyed the first part of this book that described Janice's relationship with her family and her childhood through her leaving home for college and her first marriage. This part drew me into a personal story with details both inspirational and heartbreaking. I didn't stay quite as engaged with the middle part of the book which was primarily about the author's professional life and spent a while delving specifically into her own research and journalistic writing. My interest increased once again during the last section of the book as the story returned to a somewhat more personal description of her career decisions, a move to Kansas City, and her second marriage. Overall, I enjoyed this story of one woman's continually hopeful determination to succeed in the face of discrimination.

*I know the author personally, but I purchased this book myself to read her story and provide an honest review.
Profile Image for Katherine Hebert.
195 reviews4 followers
September 17, 2018
Thought provoking

From Liberty to Magnolia is a thought provoking memoir from Janice Ellis about her struggle to rise above her environment and the racism of the world that was also holding her back. The story of her struggle to do better, even without the support of her family who were concerned that she would be heartbroken if she failed, is positively inspiring. While she focuses on the correlation in time with the Civil Rights movement, it feels very current as well with the social discrepancies the world is facing. I know it’s a touchy subject but regardless of what side you’re on, we all can stand behind someone who rose from the ashes to be something. I applaud Dr Ellis for shattering the glass ceiling that was holding her down. Her memoir was extremely well written and worth the time.
Profile Image for Fran.
Author 44 books122 followers
March 30, 2018
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

Profile Image for Grady.
Author 50 books830 followers
April 30, 2019
Inalienable rights

Author Janice S. Ellis earned degrees in communication arts, political science and philosophy from the University of Wisconsin, and in addition to her history of serving as an executive in government, marketing and in the pharmaceutical industry, she has written articles in the media on race, politics, education, child advocacy, women’s rights and racial equality.

The impact of this beautifully written book is increased knowing that the story is an autobiography. In sharing her life experiences to date Janice Scott Ellis brings to our attention the immediacy of our history in regards to women’s rights and civil rights for blacks, and in doing so she opens the gates for us to re-evaluate our current status in honoring the rights of all people, genders, race, and religious beliefs.

The Prologue distills the mission: ‘As my story unfolds in these pages, it will show that while we have made progress through two iconic movements – civil rights and women’s liberation – we still have a long way to go. The civil rights movement resulted in the passage of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, which was designed to provide equal access for African Americans to all the rights and privileges afforded to other American citizens. But, it has also served as a light and a linchpin for other disenfranchised groups, most notably women, mainly white women…’

In addition to the solid platform offered, this novel relates a genuinely involving journey of a child from Mississippi – the title of the book reflects the location of the farmhouse of her birth, midway between the Mississippi towns of Liberty and Magnolia. What follows is Ellis’ keenly observed and reported struggle with racism and finding and fulfilling her purpose as she progressed to the present – steps that are all too familiar for those who face intolerance in schooling, the workplace, socially and politically, and daily living. The story is accompanied by excellent photographs of important moments that enhance the reality of the writing.

This is an important book that deserves a very wide readership if we are ever to fully appreciate the importance of true equality in every phase of our lives. Highly Recommended.
Profile Image for Brian Aird.
216 reviews11 followers
May 19, 2019
From Liberty to Magnolia: In Search of the American Dream by Janice S. Ellis, Ph.D.

From Liberty to Magnolia: In Search of the American Dream by Janice S. Ellis, Ph.D. is the story of a woman's inspirational journey in search of the American dream and the quest of realizing her full potential as a human being.

Janice S. Ellis chronicles her life's experiences through the reality and lens of being an African American woman. The tumultous times that will undoubtedly inspire the reader include the author's experiences in the 1960's growing up in the State of Mississippi. A state where severe segregation was the norm and then in front of the backdrop of the 1970's. A decade that addressed the issue of gender bias and the limitations placed upon women.

Through these two significant eras of minimalization, Dr. Ellis recounts her startling lifestyle and fearful experiences. Often, these demeaning situations were at the hands and efforts of others and society to box her in and from reaching her full potential and keeping her in "her place."

From Liberty to Magnolia: In Search of the American Dream by Janice S. Ellis, Ph.D. is an inspirational read as she relates how these figuratively speaking stones thrown at her to deter or hurt her became her "stepping stones" to achieve her full potential as a member of the human race. Her personal journey underscores the power of education, one's personal commitment to succeed and not allowing others to define who they are.

Also, being the educator as she is, Dr. Ellis adds to the mix questions to cause the reader to think. One such philosophical question that is posed questions what is first, her rights as a woman or her rights as an African American.

From Liberty to Magnolia: In Search of the American Dream by Janice S. Ellis, Ph.D. is a well-written, engaging and inspirational read that is sure to resonate with the spirit of the reader. Added to the power of the story captured is the realization that this is the autobiography of the author and therefore maximizes the story related and lived.
Profile Image for Leila.
560 reviews8 followers
March 22, 2018
I wasn’t really sure what I was expecting when I started this book, but what I got was a journey following the life of a young black female, going from being a little girl on her mom and dad’s farm in Mississippi to becoming quite the successful woman with a college degree.

The book mentions quite often that the author is a black female – two minority groups – during her time of growing up. Both of which created struggled that she overcame.

I found the book very detailed and some parts were repetitive, but I thoroughly enjoyed reading the struggles and more importantly, the triumphs that Janice accomplished in her life.

Just the fact that she was a wife, mother of 2, going to college, working, caring for her children, caring for her home, and doing all of her school work – alone – is amazing. I couldn’t do it even with a partner. And then to get a divorce and do it all – alone – absolutely alone, just the three of them – was astonishing.

Janice is an absolute inspiration and her story showed that even with struggles – real struggles – and things standing in your way; if you really set your mind to something, you can overcome and achieve your dream.

There is only one other human being that has inspired me as much as Janice has and that is Helen Keller. While neither similar human beings, both overcame obstacles that I can only imagine in life to be the successful women that they are. How can you be any more inspirational than these two women!?

Liberty to Magnolia really was an enjoyable read and one that I will be passing on to my tween daughter to read as well, hopefully inspiring her to push forward through all the muck and follow her dreams. To be successful.
Profile Image for Guy Wheatley.
Author 8 books14 followers
May 27, 2019
Dr. Ellis and I see the political world differently. My endorsement of her book is in no way an endorsement of her political stances. I am reviewing strictly on readability and enjoyability. The book is a look at the journey from poverty to success. It is inspirational in that we watch someone overcome the circumstances of her birth to reach financial success and national prominence.
Dr. Ellis came into this world only a few years before me. We both lived in the south, and for all of our differences, I found much of the book familiar. She paints such a vivid picture of her early life, that one almost feels the need to brush the dust of the dirt road from our feet. She helps those who may not have faced some of the challenges she did, to understand the personal impact of those events. I often found myself reevaluating previously held beliefs, based on a look at the issue from her perspective.
The author is a person of unusual drive and intellect. Her drive and ambition drove her to overcome challenges that would have stopped others. Perhaps the most valuable lesson of the book is that, even when treated unfairly, those who won’t be stopped, can’t be stopped. When faced with racial or sexual prejudice, she could have stopped and wallowed in the unfairness of the situation. Instead, she faced the reality, found her best option, and fearlessly plowed forward.
The only thing I found less that enjoyable were several sections where she extensively listed excerpts from her articles, and the publications that printed them. I realize that these are accomplishments of which she is justifiably proud, but they broke the pace of the narrative. Maybe they would have found a better home in an appendix.
This is an enjoyable and uplifting read, and I highly recommend it.
Profile Image for The Book Girl.
780 reviews36 followers
May 9, 2018

I loved this memoir. This is an incredible moving book written by a woman that inspires me, Dr. Ellis. She has a way with words that just really resonated with me. I couldn't put this book down, which is rare for me with nonfiction.

In this book, Dr. Ellis shares her hopes, dreams, and her life with us. I loved the honesty and rawness of her writing. She includes details that will empower women everywhere to speak up and not allow the same treatment against themselves. As a woman, I couldn't help but connect with her story almost immediately. I have struggled in some of the same ways in my personal and work life. I feel many women have experienced gender discrimination at some point in their life.

The stories about being black were eye-opening. I have never had to deal with those discriminations but reading about them couldn't be more timely. My heart broke at times for her. The things Dr. Ellis went through were shocking. While this book dives into her past we can hear stories about discrimination constantly today. Which shows we have a long way to go. I think this book was a great study of race and gender.

The thing I love most is even with all these bad things she doesn't let it destroy her. She doesn't let this turn her to hate. That was amazing in my opinion. I hope she writes more because I can't read about her life and build more understanding around race and gender.

From Liberty to Magnolia: In Search of the American Dream is one of the most powerful books that I have ever read. It is an empowerment to people everywhere and helps build peoples understanding of race and gender. I think readers of all ages will connect with various parts of Dr. Ellis's life.
Profile Image for Lyn Jensen.
99 reviews2 followers
February 4, 2019
You may have never heard of Dr. Janice S. Ellis, except if you live in Kansas City or Milwaukee, but her memoirs remind us what one woman can do. She's black but her experience isn't limited by her skin color.
In the first part, she recounts her childhood on a small black-owned farm between the Mississippi towns of Liberty and Magnolia amid segregation in the sixties, her schooling, first in segregated grade schools and later as a rare black woman studying for several advanced degrees including a Ph. D., and a troubled first marriage.
In the second part, she recounts her career(s)--in advocacy journalism, government and private industry. She developed the ADAP budgeting program when she was a staffer at Milwaukee city hall, 1976-1982, but quit when the mayor promoted a white male over her. In private industry her experience was much the same--no promotions, but multiple incidents of sexual harassment. She moved to Kansas City when she married her second husband. She ran for mayor of Kansas City and lost twice. Given her education and experience, she might be advised to try running for office again. Government at all levels needs minds like hers.
She uses "Liberty to Magnolia" as a metaphor for what we in America are born with (liberty) compared to what we strive for (the blossoming of our dreams, our own personal magnolia). Her story may serve as an inspiration to women of any race, and men of any race may find it of interest, too.
The book is published by Christian Faith Publishing, but the spiritual overtones are woven into the larger narrative. Dr. Ellis is a woman of faith, but she faces her life's challenges on a worldly level.
Profile Image for Jerry Olasakinju.
27 reviews3 followers
January 23, 2019
Janice Ellis truly pours her heart out in her enigmatic book, From Liberty to Magnolia.
While recognizing that America, as a country, has made significant progresses through its civil rights and women liberation movements, but she is still saddened by instances of endemic sexism and racism that are holding the country back from attaining the glory it is very capable of attaining.
If you are looking for a gripping tale that is partly historical and partly a long, call-to-action missive, this is surely going to be a good read for you.
Writing from the standpoints of two unique groups (women and people of color) that have been continually disrespected and marginalized, Janice Ellis doesn’t only reveal her own experiences as she pursued the ever elusive American Dream from her poor, little farmhouse in Mississippi to the Corporate America, but also challenge the systems that make some societal evils perpetuate.
I think this book should be praised for its fairness, directedness, and hope. Janice Ellis doesn’t only believe that the America she knew as a little Mississippi girl has tremendously transformed itself in all perspectives, but she strongly thinks it can do more for its citizens.
Profile Image for Katy.
7 reviews1 follower
April 6, 2019
From Liberty to Magnolia is the autobiography of Dr. Janice S. Ellis, a black woman who grew up on a small cotton farm in the 1960s. It details her life and struggles throughout the civil rights movement and the women’s liberation movement. She always aspired to more than a farm life, and had a love of books and education since she was a child. Despite her disadvantages and many people trying to hold her back, she worked her way through school, corporate jobs, and politics, and is now a successful writer with two Masters degrees and a Doctorate. This book is an inspirational read, showing the difficult life that Dr. Ellis led and overcame, never losing her optimism or determination. It also brings up interesting philosophical questions. The author always questioned which should come first, her rights as a black person, or her rights as a woman. Both are considered disadvantaged minorities and Dr. Ellis grew up during the rights movements for both. This is a great book to pick up, both to learn about an interesting and inspirational woman, and to provoke thought on the rights and struggles of minorities.
Profile Image for Jo Bass.
66 reviews6 followers
February 11, 2019
This was a hard book to read, and a wonderful book, all at the same time. Hard because it shines a light on the deep struggles of black people in America, especially those who lived in the south eastern part of the United States, as well as the ongoing struggle of women everywhere to maintain their feminine side while supporting their families. In a sense, it is a deeply personal book for me because although I do not share the skin color, I also grew up in a farming community. My mother was a single parent at a time when most families included both a father and a mother. It is a book for our current times because so many young women do not understand the heritage that our foremothers created for us. Ms. Ellis brings to life the wonder of remembering parents with all their flaws and virtues. I found her search for music especially poignant, and applaud her courage to teach herself. This is a book of personal strength, of struggle, and of overcoming obstacles. This book is a triumph, and I am glad to have it as part of my personal library. It is perfect for reading again and again.
Profile Image for Karyn H.
486 reviews7 followers
June 27, 2019

From liberty to magnolia is a motivating account of a brave woman who grew up in a countryside isolated Mississippi and defeated the real ugly life of preconception against being a woman and being black. This book is divided into two parts. The first part with the subtitle “finding my purpose” talks about the writer's childhood, her education, family, and exceptional impacts in her life. She narrates how it was like growing up at the time of the women liberation movements and civil rights movements, both of which powered her resolution to attain her dreams.
The second part with the subtitle “fulfilling my purpose” it’s all about how she was able to acquire her Ph.D. with a brimful course load while rearing two small children alone, dealing with a neglectful and abusive spouse and working part-time. She finally got married again, but only after she had established a prosperous occupation and her two boys had become teens. This part is much about how she came to her own as her mother, an entrepreneur, and an attorney.
Profile Image for Jimmy Jefferson.
1,043 reviews6 followers
July 19, 2018
A doctor's story of growing and flourishing in a time of racism and sexism

This is the life experiences of a woman who grew up in the racist and sexist period in this great country. Dr. Ellis shares her experiences with us as she describes what it was like to grow up in this time in American history. Today we tell our children they can be anything they want. I the time Dr Ellis grew up some of the children were told they couldn't do things they dreamed of. This book is about the dreams of Dr Ellis and the things she faced as she fought to achieve her goals one at a time over the protests of society during this racially charged time. I found this book to be inspiring and a great read for anyone who wants to learn and develop as a person. All people deserve the right to succeed based on ability not color or gender. I recommend this book to everyone as it can share experiences that will help you understand the fights still being waged today.
Profile Image for Julius Blitzy.
476 reviews9 followers
July 20, 2018
The fight for the ‘American Dream’ is something that has been going on for ages, this approach comes from a fragile time in history, but it is as inspiring as is it brutally honest, it’s an important read for all of us.
Despite living in a cornered and poor state, Janice never let her back down and she always move forward, a highly intelligent student and always motivated, the sexism and racism were obligatory struggles she faces along the way, but even after all that she earn a well establish place in the society, this is her story.
We often hear stories about how great figures were once just like you and me, but we need to remember one thing, not every story nor path is the same, Janice’s path was very diverse from many others and at the same time very similar, so if you need to find inspiration to keep moving forward, read this book, Janice is the prime example to never give up against all odds.
Profile Image for Pegboard.
1,745 reviews9 followers
May 3, 2019
From Liberty to Magnolia is a tribute to the work Janice Ellis has been doing for years, enlightening the Americans about the racism and sexism that still exists. By using her own experiences she educates and influences people from all walks of life in her writings, speaking engagements, and internet presence. This memoir shows how even when she lived in a hostile environment she was fearless and demanded respect. This was much to the dismay and fear of her mother. As she recalls her youth, Janice doesn’t leave out the events that reminds the reader she had the unique advantage of living on a small farm. Her story mischief surrounding her brothers and cousin when she attempts to play with the wasps also was humorous. Though it has had a lasting effect on her. Overall, I found this biography encouraging and optimistic. Janice does an incredible job informing and conveying what is happening behind the scenes in America minorities.  
Profile Image for Rachel Kester.
487 reviews5 followers
April 11, 2018
This novel by Dr. Janice S. Ellis tells the incredible story of a young African American woman searching to find the American Dream during the Civil Rights Movement. Living in the Deep South, she must work to help fight against the evils of racism and segregation, as well as sexism.
This book is well-written and is based on the author’s life. It’s filled with historical events which will help you to learn more about them while seeing the impact they had on people.
If you’re looking for an inspiring book to read, you’ll definitely want to check this book out. It’s an empowering novel that shows a young woman fighting for what is right and through the many challenges that come her way as she does. It will inspire anyone to work hard and overcome the challenges that they face. At 341 pages, it’s a little bit of a long read, but it’s well worth investing time into.
Profile Image for Shanell Meek.
579 reviews6 followers
April 27, 2018
Both inspiring and empowering.

From Liberty to Magnolia: In Search of the American Dream by Janice S Ellis Ph.D., is Dr Ellis’ biography. She addresses the trails and tribulations that she has been forced to overcome simply because she is a woman or because she is black. I feel like this book would be empowering for young Black people, both men and women, as well as women of all races. The world has come a long way when it comes to both racism and sexism, but we still have a long way to go. It’s the success stories like this that hold a light at the end of the tunnel for those who are even now struggling with others desires to hold them down just because of their race or gender. This story basically follows Dr Ellis as she makes her way through poor educational systems, an abusive relationships, job and promotion denials, and still comes out on top!
Profile Image for Kristen.
223 reviews5 followers
August 3, 2018
From Liberty to Magnolia tells the story of Janice Ellis and how despite all odds achieved her dreams. Being an African American Woman during the 1900’s was not necessarily the easiest thing to be when looking make change, have a career, or in some cases, simply exist.

Her story is an example of it does not matter what your circumstances may be, you can achieve success. It will be hard, without a doubt, especially for those who have found them without any resources to succeed, but it is possible. Her story is an inspiration to those who have been told no because of who they are, yet she persisted!

I would certainly suggest this book to anyone who has a dream. To anyone who has been told no. To anyone who feels their circumstances has more control over their success than their drive.
January 30, 2019
From Liberty to Magnolia gives a realistic take on racism and sexism in America. I thought the author’s story as an African American woman was inspiring and eye-opening. We tend to forget the effects that racism and sexism have on people and America as a whole. However, it does shed light on the progress America has been able to accomplish in those areas as well. This book inspires hope, reflection, and emotion you don’t normally get from any ordinary book. I think it was very bold for the author to use her own life story, but so worth it in the end. I really enjoyed this book and feel that it lived up to its full potential. She is very relatable no matter what your race is especially if you’re a woman. Not too often do you get to hear about racism from a woman’s perspective so this was refreshing.
Profile Image for Julia Grant.
11 reviews
April 2, 2019
This is the true and inspiring story of a woman who has endured much and fought for herself. At this point in history, becoming familiar with real stories such as this one is vitally important. Our nation is constantly living in division and polarization. I can relate to the author on one account - I am a woman. On the other hand, I cannot relate to the racism that Ellis has endured during her lifetime. If you can relate to this author's struggles - I recommend this book as an encouragement to not give up and to fight for justice. If you cannot relate - I recommend this book as a way to better understand the difficulties that many have faced in our country. Understanding breeds unity, and we need unity! The story is easy to become immersed in, as it is a real story and the author writes well. Highly recommend!
Profile Image for Valery.
1,295 reviews46 followers
April 29, 2019
From Liberty to Magnolia: In Search of the American Dream by Janice S. Ellis is the author's personal memoir of her life. As an African American woman in the time of the burgeoning civil rights movement, Ellis has a strong tale to tell. From her early days growing up on a farm in Mississippi to becoming a successful business woman, this is an inspirational tale that will inspire and motivate just about anyone. Having witnessed so many injustices, she strove to make the best of her situation, and endeavored to succeed and prosper in spite of the social climate of her past and even today. This is a thought provoking first hand account of what it was like to grow up in the south as a black female. Eye opening and entertaining at once, the level of detail the author provides is astounding. An enjoyable read that is highly recommended for something that will educate and expand your mind.
Profile Image for Mar.
332 reviews4 followers
July 24, 2018
The memoirs of Janice S. Ellis are present here in From Liberty to Magnolia: In Search of the American Dream. It’s an inspirational book that shows in not a great light the last 50 year in America and how we still have such a long road ahead of ourselves to really be equals.
The book tells the story of an African-American woman and all the racism and sexism she had to deal throughout all her life. Growing up in a segregated state could have meant she would never have a career, but she pushed back and was fortunate enough to be able to free herself from the social constraints others had. It’s a powerful reminder of how much things have evolved but also on how much things still need to get better and how – quickly and easily – things can get a turn for the worst.
Profile Image for Jessie Hilbert.
20 reviews1 follower
February 1, 2019
This memoir was one of the most moving and inspiring books I have read in a long time. Dr. Ellis, is very inspiring to many and this book shows just that. I really couldn't put this book down, which is rare for me with nonfiction. The hopes, dream and many parts of her life that she shares with us are so inspiring and special. She's honest and her writing is raw and real. This book has the ability to empower women everywhere and to encourage them to speak up for themselves. As a woman, I couldn't help but connect with her story almost immediately. No matter what, she never let the bad things in her life get to her. This book is one I highly recommend to read for anyone looking for a little inspiration in their life.
Profile Image for Gloria Squitiro.
Author 4 books5 followers
June 5, 2019
I received an advance review copy of Ellis's "From Liberty to Magnolia: In Search of the American Dream." By the end of the read, I thought how relevant her message was today, especially when you stand her memoir next to the Me-Too Movement.

Because to me, the only way that women will rise from oppression is if we band together.

Despite Ellis's tragedies, she had the perseverance it took to make something of herself. But imagine the greater heights she could've achieved if other women stood by her, cheered her on?

Great insightful work that will surely inspire. Rooting for Ellis and for all women today!

Gloria Squitiro - A first lady of Kanas City and author of May Cause Drowsiness and Blurred Vision: The Side Effects of Bravery
128 reviews15 followers
July 19, 2018
Uncensored, this is a heart wrenching and revealing book showing that America is far from equal and far from free.

I like to think that in these modern times, sexism and racism are things of the past but sadly this is not true and we must stay aware of that.

It is rife and rampant and to be both black and a women in today’s society still puts you at a massive disadvantage.

But even with this disadvantage it doesn’t mean that you can’t achieve incredible things.

There is a real show of tenacity and perseverance against all odds in this book. Even though everything is stacked against her she still manages to succeed and this is a beautiful reminder of what is possible in life.
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