Updated: Nov 9, 2022
By Journey Artis
Ida B. Wells was born in Mississippi on July 16, 1862. She was born into slavery. However, she was freed by the Emancipation Proclamation during the Civil War. At sixteen, she lost both of her parents and younger brother to the Yellow Fever Epidemic. As a result, she went to work to keep the rest of her family together, and after moving with her siblings to Memphis, Tennessee, she found better pay working as a teacher. This is one of many admirable acts of Wells because, while dealing with family tragedy, she was able to assume the responsibility of providing for herself and her family during dark times.
Soon after, she co-owned and wrote for the Memphis Free Speech and Headlight newspaper, where her reports discussed racial inequality and segregation. In the 1890s, she wrote about lynchings in the United States in articles and through her pamphlet of arguments titled, Southern Horrors: Lynch Law in all its Phases, which investigated the claims of White Americans, which were that lynchings were reserved for Black criminals. Wells described lynching as “The barbaric practice of whites whose purpose was to intimidate and oppress African Americans.” Many enraged whites destroyed her newspaper office and presses because her reporting, investigations, and writing were published in nationally Black-owned newspapers.
Due to the continuous threats that she got, Wells moved from Memphis to Chicago, where she continued her work, consisting of work writing, speaking, and organizing for Civil Rights and the Women’s Suffrage Movement. Additionally, she established multiple women’s organizations that were quite notable. She was also a very persuasive and proficient speaker who went on lecture tours nationally and internationally. Furthermore, she was also one of the NAACP founders (National Association For The Advancement of Colored People). On March 25, 1931, Ida B. Wells died due to Kidney Disease, leaving behind one of the largest legacies in African American history.
Around fifty years after her death, she was honored with a Pulitzer Prize Special Citation for reporting on the horrific violence that lynching was against the African-American community during her era. Ida B. Wells had many obstacles to face both in and out of her community. This was because of the hostilities whites held against African Americans. Many people she worked with, regardless of their race, did not approve of or were in a state of ambivalence about women being in leadership roles. However, Wells did not let this stop her or the work she believed in. Once quoting, “The only way to right wrongs is to turn the light of truth on them.” Showing how determined she was to shed light on the injustices both African-Americans and women faced. Her determination, courage, and bravery are commendable, and Ida B. Wells deserves so much recognition for her work towards change!