HarperCollins Speakers Bureau

Paula Giddings

Scholar, Journalist, and Award-Winning Author


  • Ida B. Wells and the Campaign Against Lynching
  • Social History of Black Women in America
  • Feminism, Race, and Resistance
  • The Politics of Race and Gender in America


Massachusetts, New York

Paula Giddings is the Elizabeth A. Woodson 1922 Professor of Afro-American Studies at Smith College, where she also serves as editor of the scholarly journal, Meridians: Feminism, Race, Transnationalism. Giddings is the author of four books on the social and political history of African-American women, including the award-winning Ida: A Sword Among Lions (Amistad), and is a sought after speaker at universities, historical societies, and churches.

Giddings’s first book, When and Where I Enter: The Impact on Black Women on Race and Sex in America (Amistad) was said by Maya Angelou to have “shone a brilliant light on the lives of women left in the shadow of history.” It quickly became a best-seller and was adopted by colleges worldwide for courses on the subject. Her writing, teaching, and presentations brilliantly illuminate the complicated history of black women in America, in a manner that is both eloquent and moving.

Giddings’s latest book, Ida: A Sword Among Lions (Amistad), is a biography of the anti-lynching activist Ida B. Wells that places her firmly in the context of her times as well as ours. It won the 2008 Los Angeles Times Book Award for Biography, received the 2008 Letitia Woods Brown Book Award from the Association of Black Women Historians and the Gustavus Myers Center for the Study of Bigotry and Human Rights Outstanding Book Award, and was the 2009 Nonfiction winner of the Black Caucus of the American Library Association Literary Award. It was also a finalist for the National Book Critics Circle Award for 2008 and was named a Best Book of 2008 by both The Washington Post and Chicago Tribune. Giddings is also the author of In Search of Sisterhood: Delta Sigma Theta and the Challenge of the Black Sorority Movement (Amistad), and was the editor of Burning All Illusions (Nation Books), an anthology of articles on race published by The Nation magazine from 1867 to 2000.

Giddings was formerly a book editor and journalist who has written extensively on international and national issues and has been published by The Washington Post, the New York Times, Philadelphia Inquirer, Jeune Afrique (Paris), The Nation, and the journals Meridians: Feminism, Race, Transnationalism, and Sage: A Scholarly Journal on Black Women,among other publications. Before Smith College, Giddings taught at: Spelman College, where she was a United Negro Fund Distinguished Scholar; Douglass College/Rutgers University as the Laurie Chair in Women’s Studies; Princeton and Duke Universities.  

Giddings has been awarded fellowships by the Guggenheim Foundation, the National Humanities Center in Research Triangle Park, North Carolina, and the Center for Advanced Study in the Behavioral Sciences at Stanford University (declined). She has also been awarded Honorary Doctorates from Bennett College and Wesleyan University, and was named a Phi Beta Kappa Visiting Scholar. Giddings is also the proud recipient of the Candace Award from the National Coalition of 100 Black Women, and the Anna Julia Cooper Award from Sage: A Scholarly Journal on Black Women.

Giddings is a member of PEN, a writers’ group, the Authors Guild Foundation, Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, and the Coalition of 100 Black Women.


Praise for Paula Giddings

"Ms. Giddings provided wisdom and understanding on a difficult subject. Because of her insight, our audience could grasp, possibly for the first time, the true horror of lynching in our country and in particular our state."
—Sabrina Mancini, Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library and Museum

Praise for Ida: A Sword Among Lions

A Sword Among Lions is more than brilliant; it is necessary. I can’t think of a biography that throws more light on the history of gender, race, and class discord in the United States. Six decades of Ida B. Wells’ life constitute a riveting, definitive narrative on a dark and bruising history. In Paula Giddings, this vibrant woman has found a biographer equal to her prowess.”
—Toni Morrison

“Ida B. Wells was an inspired journalist, an uncompromising civil libertarian, and a woman far ahead of her patriarchal times — a ‘difficult’ woman. Paula Giddings’s monumental achievement restores this extraordinary contrarian to her place as one of the grand pace-setters of American social justice and female empowerment.”
—David Levering Lewis, Pulitzer Prize-Winning biographer of W.E.B. Du Bois

“Surely, with Giddings’s exquisitely written, exhaustively investigated , and brilliantly rendered biography, Ida’s soul will rest in peace.”

—Darlene Clark Hine, editor, Black Women in America, Board of Trustees Professor of  African American Studies and  Professor of History, Northwestern University.

“Devoted . . . scrupulous . . . Giddings…brushes in the historical context of Wells-Barnett’s campaign (against lynching) ably.”
—New York Times Book Review

“Giddings set out to write a definitive biography and has succeeded spectacularly…We come to love this brave and wise woman…Read it and weep. Then give it to the last person who told you that ideals are a waste of time.”
Glenda Elizabeth Gilmore, Washington Post Book World

“Historians will profit from the research [Giddings] has compiled.”
—Wall Street Journal

“A groundbreaking biography gives this warrior her due.”
O Magazine

“Paula J. Giddings’s Ida: A Sword Among Lions (Amistad) is a worthy biography of the vibrant crusader who led the nation’s first campaign against lynching.”

“A hearty thumbs-up for this powerful retelling of her life.”

“A sweeping and timely biographical narrative about Ida B. Wells . . . a paragon of American history.”

“Riveting. . .absorbing. . .meticulous. . . Giddings’s splendid new biography will go a long way toward restoring Wells’s place in the historical record.”
—Boston Globe

“Compelling. . . Ida B.Wells may be the most courageous woman most of us have never heard of.”
—New York Post

Praise For When and Where I Enter

“History at its best — clear, intelligent, moving. Paula Giddings has written a book as priceless as its subject.”

—Toni Morrison

“A powerful book. Paula Giddings has shone a brilliant light on the lives of women left in the shadow of history.”
—Maya Angelou

“A jarringly fresh and challenging interpretation, rather than a simplistic rendering of a single consciousness that would too narrowly define the black woman . . . A labor of commitment and love.”
New York Times Book Review

“The best interpretation of black women and race and sex that we have.”
Women’s Review of Books