Ida B. Wells

“The way to right wrongs is to turn the light of truth upon them.”

Ida B. Wells Barnett was a African American woman of striking courage and conviction. She brought international attention as a leader of anti-lynching crusades for African Americans in the south and established racial equality. Most of her efforts are largely known because she was an African American female.

Racial segregation was a major issue throughout this time. An incident were Wells was asked to move from her seat in the train into the smoking car, influenced Wells writing career.During the late 1800’s, violence against blacks increased at alarming rates and mob rule was becoming the norm. The KKK, white supremacy involving murdering and lynching the lives of innocent African Americans. After the lynching of three of her friends in 1892, Wells became one of the nation’s most vocal anti-lynching activists.Wells responded to this outrageous act of violence by writing an editorial in the Free Speech, encouraging blacks to leave Memphis. Wells and other blacks who followed, organized boycotts of white owned businesses in response to the lynchings. The Lynching at the Curve marked the beginning of Wells’ anti-lynching campaign. She continued to write editorials against lynching, gave public speakings on the subject and began to organize and mobilize blacks in an effort to abolish the practice.

The remaining years of Ida B. Wells’ career were filled with more writing, activism and organizing. In 1909 she became one of the founders of the NAACP. In 1913 Wells established the first black women’s suffrage club. In 1928 Wells began her autobiography, stating that “the history of this entire period which reflected glory on the race should be known. Yet most of it is buried I oblivion… and so, because our youth are entitled to the facts of race history which only the participants can give, I am thus led to set forth the facts” (Duster 5).

On March 25, 1931, Wells passed away leaving behind a legacy of hope and courage for racial equality. Her anti-lynching message traveled through the United States to Europe. She wrote excessively on the injustices African Americans faced everyday. Today she is still recognized as a remarkable woman of her era, thanks to her strong voice through pen and paper.

Work cited:

Townes, Emilie M. 1989. “Black Women and Social Evil: Ida B. Wells-Barnett’s Social and Moral Perspectives as Resources for a Contemporary Afro-Feminist Social   Ethic.” NWSA Journal 1, no. 3: 568. Academic Search Complete,     EBSCOhost (accessed March 4, 2016)

Pinar, William F. 2006. “THE EMERGENCE OF IDA B. WELLS.” Curriculum & Teaching Dialogue 8, no. 1/2: 153-170. Academic Search Complete,        EBSCOhost (accessed March 4, 2016).

Duster, A. (Ed.) (1970). Crusade for justice: The autobiography of Ida B. Wells. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.

Sterling, D. (1988). Black Foremothers. New York: The Feminist Press.


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