Janice Ellis, PhD, shares her story of growing up during the Women's and Civil Rights movements in her new memoir "From Liberty to Magnolia: In Search of the American Dream".
Ellis sat down with Markette Sheppard and Kristen Berest-Harris to tell her story, which is especially relevant during Black History Month and ahead of Women's History Month in March.
Markette: [Your book] tells the story of you growing up in Mississippi in a very segregated area in a segregated time, what was your experience like?
Janice Ellis: As a young girl I grew up on my dad's cotton farm and there were seven of us kids, says Ellis. So, poverty was a part of my early life.
The road between the two towns in Mississippi, Liberty and Magnolia was segregated, so some parts were paved and some were not. I also went to a segregated school, but I learned to make the most of it.
I grew up with my father registering folks to vote as a member of the NAACP and the Klan burned crosses on our lawn but it wasn't a deterrence.
Kristen: Janice, you mention the Civil Rights Movement and the Women's Movement and we've seen an incredible push now with the #MeToo Movement, do you feel like this is a phase two?
Janice Ellis: Yes! This is a second chapter, as a young adult I was faced with the Civil Rights Movement and the Women's Liberation Movement.
And I didn't really feel the Women's Liberation Movement until I started graduate school. I was told by my professors, "I don't see how you can have a family and get your PhD." I said, Oh but I will, and I did!
I have some messages in the book, especially for women of color, no matter what your station in life you can persevere and you can be successful.
Markette: You talk about your struggles and achievements in the book, helping integrate a college, going through graduate school pregnant and when you got to your desired career you weren't promoted because of your color, yet your performance reviews were excellent
Janice Ellis: That's exactly right, and that's where the double whammy comes in as a woman and as an African American.
I worked in this large pharmaceutical company, was one of the first black women in the company, negotiated multi-million dollar deals and over six years I was never promoted.
Kristen: What was your hope and the message you wanted to come across in your book?
Janice Ellis: Mainly to say to young women and minorities that the work still needs to go on. And you must persevere irrespective of your challenges, we have to continue.
And the second thing is to say to America that everyone should have equal opportunity to achieve the American dream, irrespective of your gender, irrespective of your skin color, irrespective of your station in life.