She Can Bring Us Home


She Can Bring Us Home

Dr. Dorothy Boulding Ferebee, Civil Rights Pioneer

Diane Kiesel

414 pages
41 photographs, index


March 2019


$26.95 Add to Cart

August 2015


$37.95 Add to Cart
eBook (EPUB)
Ebook purchases delivered via Leaf e-Reader

August 2015


$26.95 Add to Cart
eBook (PDF)
Ebook purchases delivered via Leaf e-Reader

August 2015


$26.95 Add to Cart

About the Book

Long before it became the slogan of the presidential campaign for Barack Obama, Dorothy Ferebee (1898–1980) lived by the motto “Yes, we can.” An African American obstetrician and civil rights activist from Washington DC, she was descended from lawyers, journalists, politicians, and a judge. At a time when African Americans faced Jim Crow segregation, desperate poverty, and lynch mobs, she advised presidents on civil rights and assisted foreign governments on public health issues. Though articulate, visionary, talented, and skillful at managing her publicity, she was also tragically flawed.

Ferebee was president of the Alpha Kappa Alpha black service sorority and later became the president of the powerful National Council of Negro Women in the nascent civil rights era. She stood up to gun-toting plantation owners to bring health care to sharecroppers through her Mississippi Health Project during the Great Depression.

A household name in black America for forty years, Ferebee was also the media darling of the thriving black press. Ironically, her fame and relevance faded as African Americans achieved the political power for which she had fought. In She Can Bring Us Home, Diane Kiesel tells Ferebee’s extraordinary story of struggle and personal sacrifice to a new generation.

Author Bio

Diane Kiesel is an acting justice of the New York State Supreme Court. A former journalist, she is a winner of the Worth Bingham Prize for Investigative Journalism and is the author of Domestic Violence: Law, Policy, and Practice. She lives in New York City.


"A monumental work. . . . She Can Bring Us Home expertly recovers the life of this forgotten giant in advocacy of civil rights, health care, women's rights, and educational equality."—Cassandra Newby-Alexander, Virginia Magazine

“An impressive biography of Dorothy Ferebee. Readers will learn much not only about Dr. Ferebee’s life, but also about the era in which she lived.”—Debra Newman Ham, Journal of African American History

"She Can Bring Us Home is an engaging study of an African American woman physician whose deserves to be better known in medical history."—Susan L. Smith, Journal of the History of Medicine

"An anomaly in her own time, the ambitious, professionally successful Ferebee might have felt more at home in the 21st century, when her ideals of racial and gender equality, as well as her struggles to balance work and family, resonate more broadly in our culture. Kiesel does readers a great service by revealing the struggles and triumphs of this remarkable woman."—Chris Myers Asch, Washington History

“This lovingly crafted biography brings to life the remarkable tale of a powerful but overlooked twentieth-century advocate for women and racial equality. Born at the end of the nineteenth century, the descendant of slaves who fled to Boston, Dorothy Ferebee took her Tufts Medical School diploma to the nation’s capital to serve the neglected needs of African Americans living in poverty. . . . In Judge Diane Kiesel’s capable hands, Ferebee’s life as a national civil rights leader is given long-overdue recognition.”—James McGrath Morris, author of Eye on the Struggle: Ethel Payne, the First Lady of the Black Press  

“Dorothy Ferebee—ground-breaking physician, civil rights champion, feminist advocate—was a legend in her own time but is largely unknown in ours. Now Diane Kiesel brings alive this extraordinary woman whose private life was as tortured and heartbreaking as her public persona was exemplary and heroic. A compulsively readable exploration of the price women pay for greatness.”—Ellen Feldman, author of The Unwitting and Scottsboro  

“This meticulous account of the life of one of twentieth-century America’s most influential African American women, a doctor whose contributions to public health, civil rights, and women’s reproductive freedom were vast, is long overdue. . . . In this engrossing work of investigative biography Diane Kiesel reveals that success was achieved at great personal cost and masked a secret tragedy.”—Nina Burleigh, author of The Fatal Gift of Beauty: The Trials of Amanda Knox 

"Kiesel is a fine writer. . . . [Her] reporting on and writing about Boulding [Ferebee] will cause you to reflect about where this country has been and the directions in which it has been going. . . . The author's painstaking research and clear narrative style does her subject justice.  It is an engaging and enjoyable read."—Laura Ward, New York Law Journal

"She Can Bring Us Home is a impressive biography of Dorothy Ferebee. Readers will learn much not only about Dr. Ferebee's life, but also about the era in which she lived."—Debra Newman Ham, Journal of African American History

Table of Contents

List of Illustrations
Introduction: Compassion, Cussedness, and Class
1. Push, Pluck, Prominence, and Merit
2. Among the Favored Few
3. As If I Had Thrown a Bomb into the Room
4. The Count
5. Petunia Ticklebritches
6. Everything Was Precise
7. We Went, We Saw, We Were Stunned
8. Stupid, Vacant, and Void of Hope
9. As the Moonlight Turned Barn Roofs to Silver
10. Tell Claude Ferebee to Keep His Shirt On
11. Madeline, My Concerto
12. The Skipper
13. Some Stuff
14. Every Bone in the Body
15. A Matter for Grave Concern
16. One of the Coldest Winters We Ever Had
17. As Good as I Could
18. You Were Grand as Ever
19. A Bad Bitter Pill
20. A Citizen Concerned with International Affairs
21. Woman Power
22. I Should Not Be Here but I Had to Come
Epilogue: Going Home


2015 Richard Slatten Award for Excellence in Virginia Biography
2016 Colonial Dames of America Book Award