“The word befitting this work is ‘masterpiece.’ ” —Paula J. Giddings, author of Ida: A Sword Among Lions: Ida B. Wells and the Campaign Against Lynching

The Lumpkin sisters grew up in a former slaveholding family in which devotion to white supremacy and veneration of the Confederacy went hand in hand. Elizabeth, the eldest, remained a lifelong believer, but her younger sisters chose vastly different lives for themselves. Escaping to New York, Grace reinvented herself as a radical novelist who brought the travails of southern workers to national attention. Supported by partnerships with other women and inspired by liberal Christianity and the leadership of black activists, Katharine spearheaded the YWCA’s southern interracial student movement. She then went north as well, where she confronted the exclusion of women from academic and literary life and fought for a racially inclusive New Deal. As the civil rights movement gained traction in the mid-1940s, she published The Making of a Southerner, the inaugural work in a surge of autobiographies by white southerners grappling with their complicity in racism and reflecting on how they escaped from its coils.

In Sisters and Rebels, National Humanities Award-winning historian Jacquelyn Dowd Hall offers an epic narrative of American history told through a buried tradition of expatriation, female reinvention, and southern radicalism and reaction that speaks directly to our own times.

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