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The Power of Her Pen: The Story of Groundbreaking Journalist Ethel L. Payne

4.28  ·  Rating details ·  307 ratings  ·  53 reviews
Ethel Payne always had an ear for stories. Seeking truth, justice, and equality, Ethel followed stories from her school newspaper in Chicago to Japan during World War II. It even led her to the White House briefing room, where she broke barriers as the only black female journalist. Ethel wasn’t afraid to ask the tough questions of presidents, elected officials, or anyone e ...more
Hardcover, 48 pages
Published January 14th 2020 by Simon Schuster/Paula Wiseman Books
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Start your review of The Power of Her Pen: The Story of Groundbreaking Journalist Ethel L. Payne
A few years ago, I read the magnificent biography of Ethel Payne, Eye on the Struggle: Ethel Payne, the First Lady of the Black Press. This age-appropriate book for younger readers distills much of the life and work of this pioneering African-American woman journalist that I learned from Morris's book. This picture book demonstrates, in narrative and beautiful acrylic paint illustrations, the way she brought issues of civil rights, social injustice, the plight of African-Americans in the militar ...more
Melissa Nikohl
Feb 09, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Ethel L. Payne was a journalist from the South Side of Chicago and would become the "First Lady of the Black Press."

She found her joy in writing as a child. Ethel was encouraged by her parents and teacher to practice her writing.

As a young woman, she began writing letters to newspapers about discrimination against African Americans, fueling her growing interest in politics.

In 1945, she would travel to Japan as a reporter for a newspaper, where she would document her observations. Her writings a
Aug 24, 2020 rated it liked it
Shelves: picture-books
This picture book biography is worth the read because it introduced me to a person I hadn't heard of and knew nothing about, which is always a good thing. But the art was not my style, and the text was an odd mix of weirdly detailed about stuff that didn't seem important, and then glossing over large chunks of time, where, I'm assuming, Payne probably did SOMETHING. ...more
Deb (Readerbuzz) Nance
Ethel L. Payne fought her entire life to right the injustices of the disenfranchised by asking questions of those in authority and writing stories of the wrongs done to others. Hers is a fascinating story of a powerful black woman at a time when neither women nor African-Americans were allowed the freedoms given to others.
Cindy Mitchell *Kiss the Book*
The Power of Her Pen : The Story of Groundbreaking Journalist Ethel L. Payne by Lesa Cline-Ransome and John Parra PICTURE BOOK Simon and Schuster, 2020. $18. 9781481462891



Ethel L. Payne knew how to tell a story - she sold her first to her school newspaper. She also knew how to speak up about injustice and discrimination, traveling to Japan after WWII and writing about black American Soldiers. She was a feature reporter for the C
"Ethel Lois Payne always had an ear for stories..." So true! Cline-Ransome and Parra illustrate the details of this woman's life--the build up to her writing career and then a career that took her far and wide as she sought to reveal in print stories of injustice.

A couple of thoughts.

This would fit nicely in a unit of study on the Civil Rights movement or on activism. With some background knowledge on segregation and other civil rights issues, students might understand better the issues Cline-
Feb 11, 2020 rated it really liked it
Biography of Ethel L. Payne for elementary level readers.
Cline-Ransome takes readers from Payne's childhood through late career. She presents the world as she saw it and wrote about events.
Further informative text at the end of the book.
Feb 03, 2020 rated it it was amazing
A delightful book about a strong woman. A must read!
Mar 15, 2021 rated it really liked it
Ethel Payne, known as “The First Lady of the Black Press,” was born on August 14, 1911 in Chicago. She became the first African American woman to be included in the White House Press Corps. She was known for asking questions that other journalists would not.

Lesa Cline-Ransome tells Ethel’s story in this picture book for older readers. She begins when Ethel was a young girl whose parents encouraged her to get a good education in spite of obstacles. She walked a mile each way to a white high schoo
Ben Truong
Jul 23, 2020 rated it really liked it
The Power of Her Pen: The Story of Groundbreaking Journalist Ethel L. Payne is a children's picture book written by Lesa Cline-Ransome and illustrated by John Parra. It introduces journalist Ethel L. Payne, called "The First Lady of the Black Press" to young readers.

Ethel Lois Payne was an African-American journalist. Known as the "First Lady of the Black Press", she was a columnist, lecturer, and freelance writer. She combined advocacy with journalism as she reported on the Civil Rights Movemen
Stephanie Bange
Dec 27, 2020 rated it really liked it
Another fine addition to the shelf of picture book biographies about historic contributions by African Americans.

Ethel L. Payne was born a reader and a writer, collecting family stories, going to the public library as a child, and publishing her first story in her school newspaper. She wrote letters to newspapers to comment on unjust laws and discrimination against blacks, began writing about the discrimination of black soldiers in the military, began writing articles for The Chicago Defender, w
“A powerful story.” —The Horn Book
“A worthy addition to children’s biography collections.” —Booklist
“A solid treatment of an important but little-known figure, and it may prompt kids to think about the role and composition of a free press.” —BCCB
“Cline-Ransome tells [Ethel Payne’s] story with economy and drive. ‘Somebody had to do the fighting,’ she quotes Payne saying, ‘somebody had to speak up.’” —Publishers Weekly

Renowned author Lesa Cline-Ransome and celebrated illustrator John Parra unite t
May 22, 2020 rated it really liked it
Ethel L. Payne knew how to tell a story - she sold her first to her school newspaper. She also knew how to speak up about injustice and discrimination, traveling to Japan after WWII and writing about black American Soldiers. She was a feature reporter for the Chicago Defender, eventually reporting for them from Washington D.C. She knew just the right questions to ask, fought hard for civil rights and made a difference.

Great illustrations highlight this well narrated biography. A bit long for a
“Ethel spent so much time in the White House, she earned the title First Lady of the Black Press.

Ethel Payne was a journalist for five decades, using her pen to bring to light stories, ignored by the mainstream media, but important to the black community. She asked the tough questions on desegregation, immigration, the Vietnam War, and anti-discrimination to multiple presidents. She interviewed protestors and marched with Martin Luther King, Jr. “Somebody had to do the fighting, somebody had to
Apr 13, 2020 rated it it was amazing
2nd-3rd grade
biographical nonfiction.
What a great book about Ethel's story becoming a journalist! I love that this story is specifically about a black woman's story. This is a great description of black vs white. I also love the involvement of soldiers within this book, it creates a new element and perspective throughout the story. The deeper moral of hard work is subtle but prevalent. I actually love that a lot of the illustrations are black characters. I think this is a great visual for future
Erin *BookDragon_Library*
Another great addition to the picture book biography genre. It is about journalist Ethel L Payne Who lived in Chicago and her journey into the field of reporting and journalism. It touches on her being one of the only African-American female reporters at the White House and asking many different presidents questions about civil rights any quality issues in her fight for social and racial justice. I think books like this are Such an inspiring way to expose younger children to not only famous peop ...more
Jan 01, 2021 rated it really liked it
“I’ve had a box seat on history,” Ethel one said, “and that’s a rare thing.”

This historical, biographical influenced picture book is very approachable with great colorful illustrations that draw in your eye. The focus is Ethel L. Payne, and her role in reporting for all the nation on issues facing Black Americans. My kids really liked it, and I have a feeling we will need to search out more like it. Honestly, I believe I will learn a lot of history through their eyes as we explore together.
Mar 17, 2021 rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: Black History and Women's History requests
Recommended to June by: Edward Sullivan
Young biography of Ethel Payne who became know as the "First Lady of the Black Press." She asked tough questions of President Eisenhower through President Jimmy Carter. Her tough questions highlighted African Americans' struggles. She wrote the stories the white press ignored. She brought the fight for Civil Rights to the front pages.

Author's Note also mentions how she was one of four female journalists honored with a US stamp.

Bibliography, Source Credits and Further Readings.
Laura Giessler
I always enjoy learning about people new-to-me in picture book biographies! I am sorry to say that I was unfamiliar with Ethel Payne prior to reading this book, so I am thankful to have learned about her significant role. The text didn't fit together well for me, and the illustrations weren't my style. But again, thankful for the learning. ...more
Gill James
Mar 04, 2021 rated it really liked it
Ethel L Payne, the one who has the powerful pen, was a brave black female journalist. Her story is skillfully told and beautifully illustrated. But who is the reader? The story is too complex for very young children but the pictures may be off-putting for the more mature and more fluent reader.
I majored in journalism and never knew about Ethel Payne, and I loved her story. Marginalized journalists speaking out about their experiences isn't new at all and it's so inspiring to see how these people paved the way for more progress today. ...more
Nov 03, 2020 rated it really liked it
Another learning opportunity! Payne is a name I should have none, but either didn't or forgot. I bet she was mention by my friend's Aunt Patsy, a journalist. She was the Chicago Defender's White House Correspondent, so a Black women asking tough questions of Eisenhour, Kennedy, Johnson, Nixon and Carter. Most of them didn't like her questions as they address issues white people didn't want to talk about -- civil rights, representation, prejudice.

The illustrations complement the text well, bring
Amy Banker
Dec 30, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: 2020-challenge
As far as picture book biographies for children go, this one was incredibly well done in keeping my attention while also imparting the significant events of Ethel Payne's life. I am so glad to have learned about her now, and I plan to read Eye On The Struggle by James McGrath Morris to learn more! ...more
Holly Mueller
Excellent biography on Ethel L. Payne, a ground-breaking black journalist. Incredible that she reported on 5 presidents (Eisenhower through Carter), earning her the title “First Lady of the Black Press”. I enjoyed the illustrations in this book, too.
Jan 12, 2021 rated it really liked it
About Ethel Payne from childhood through retirement, with story and civil rights as threads throughout her story. I really liked the acrylic illustrations here (though I'm not sure exactly what about them?). ...more
Raven Black
Jan 26, 2021 rated it really liked it
A great look at someone we might not be familiar with for black or women's history. This book in a great introduction to the power of then pen and overcoming anything in your way. Fun illustrations top it all off. ...more
May 06, 2021 rated it it was amazing
Donating to a local literacy program. What an incredible woman! Why haven't I heard of her? Illustrations are wonderful. Great history and discussion topics. Definitely want to learn more about her (adult books) and this is a great introduction for kids. ...more
Jo Oehrlein
Mar 29, 2020 rated it really liked it
One of the first female black reporters and one who worked through multiple Presidential administrations to hold Presidents accountable for civil rights issues.
Maria Caplin
May 19, 2020 rated it really liked it
Excellent NF learned new facts. Long text for kids
Jun 01, 2020 rated it really liked it
Good story and well written.
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