An Extraordinary Life: Josephine E. Jones (Ida Bell Publishing; May 2017; $19.00) by Wendy Jones is an American story, a Great Migration story, a New York story and a black family’s story. But, most of all it is a mother-daughter story.

Josephine, a sharecropper’s daughter (and the first person in her family to graduate from high school) migrated from South Carolina to New York City in 1946 to work as a cook in the private homes of wealthy white families. She worked hard and saved what she could while also acting as a life line for various members of her family.  In 1952, she went to a dance at Harlem’s famed Savoy Ballroom where she met Len Jones whom she married a few months later.  Unfortunately, Len only worked sporadically and spent the rest of his time in bed reading detective stories. Frustrated, she separated from her husband a few months after the birth of their daughter, Wendy who was only thirteen when her father died from cancer of the esophagus.

Josephine wanted to do more with her life than work as a domestic in private homes. She first went to Standard Brands as a temp in August of 1953.  The company (now Kraft Heinz) produced Chase & Sanborn Coffee, Royal Gelatin, and Planters Peanuts.  She ended up working there for thirty one years.

In 1966 she graduated from the New York Institute of Dietetics and became manager of food services at Standard Brands which made her the first black woman in management at a Fortune 500 company.  But that was not her only source of income. Josephine worked two other jobs in order to send Wendy to an elite private school. The Dalton School offered Wendy a full scholarship to the exclusive and highly coveted institution.  Josephine responded that she would find a way to pay half of Wendy’s tuition so that she could have a say in her daughter’s education.

Josephine Jones even moved out of her six-story walkup in 1976 and purchased a Harlem brownstone.  An Extraordinary Life reveals a hardworking, disciplined and loving mother who was fiercely determined to provide the best life possible for her only child.


The only child of a single mother, Wendy Jones grew up in a rough patch of Harlem during the 1960s. Ms. Jones’ short story, Savannah, appeared in the anthology, Illuminating Tales of the Urban Black Experience (Penguin Books; 1996).  She has also written an award-winning play, In Pursuit of Justice:  A One-Woman Play about Ida B. Wells, starring Janice Jenkins, which made its debut in 1995 at the H.A.D.L.E.Y. Players in New York City.  It won four AUDELCO awards.  The play has been revived several times, including a one-hour version at Payan Theater in New York City and a full performance in New Rochelle. Ms. Jones is a graduate of The Dalton School, has a B.A. in Literature from Yale University, and an M.F.A. in Fiction from Columbia University. She is the fiction editor of, an online literary magazine, and lives in New Jersey with her family.


Sponsor’s Questions Answered

Welcome seekers of unique and thought-provoking books. In this, my first post, I will answer some questions that have been asked by a sponsor of An Extraordinary Life: Josephine E Jones. I am sure you want to know the answers to these questions, too. 1) What books are...

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 American Wealth is Broken

 Maura Cheeks| The Atlantic | July 2019

Maura Cheeks’s superbly written and researched article, plus hyperlinks, is well worth reading. The article  details the stories of three African Americans, including my mother’s story.  Throughout, Ms. Cheeks gives  examples of specific racist government policies and the impact of enslavement on these individuals.  But if you don’t have time right now to read the entire article, scroll down about 13 paragraphs to the roman numeral II and pictures of my mother in her brownstone. Her story follows.





Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture  – NY

Firestone Library – Princeton University – Princeton, NJ

Library of Congress – Washington, D.C.


East Orange Public Library – East Orange, NJ (Memorial Donation)

Hillside Public Library – Hillside, NJ (Memorial Donation)

MacKay Library – Union County College – Cranford, NJ

Montclair Public Library – Montclair, NJ (Memorial Donation)

Plainfield Public Library – Plainfield, NJ (Memorial Donation)

Roosevelt Public Library – Roosevelt, NY (Long Island)

Roselle Public Library – Roselle, NJ (Memorial Donation)

San Francisco Public Library – San Francisco, CA

Springfield Free Public Library – Springfield, NJ

Union Public Library – Union, NJ (Memorial Donation)

Vauxhall Public Library – Vauxhall, NJ (Memorial Donation)

Westfield Memorial Library – Westfield, NJ

Wisconsin Historical Society – Madison, WI


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