HomeCover StoriesIda B. Wells: A Crusader for Justice

Ida B. Wells: A Crusader for Justice

Black news from Pasadena - Ida B. Wells - A crusader for justiceJournalist, civil rights leader and reformer Ida B. Wells was born in Holly Springs, Mississippi. Her parents and two brothers died of yellow fever when she was fourteen, leaving five young children to the care of the state. Ida demanded that the family be kept intact and convinced authorities that she could care for her siblings. Taking the job as a country school teacher for twenty-five dollars a month, she successfully raised and educated her sisters and brothers.

After moving to Memphis, Tennessee, at the age of twenty-two, she continued to teach while attending summer sessions at Fisk University. A fighter and an activist, Ida refused to give up her seat in a railroad car designated "whites only" and was physically removed from the train. She brought suit against the railroad, lost the court case and was immediately fired from her teaching position.

Outraged by the court's failure to apply a uniform set of laws to all people, Wells-Barnett turned to the pen as her weapon of choice in fighting segregation, racism and sexism. She became co-owner and editor of the Memphis Weekly Free Speech in 1891. A year later, her office was destroyed by an angry mob of whites after she printed the names of the parties responsible for lynching three affluent African Americans businessmen who were her friends and colleagues.

Fleeing Memphis to New York, she was hired by the New York Age and embarked on an anti-lynching campaign that would take her on lecture tours across the country and to England. Her violent opposition to lynching, enforced with fiery commentary in her column and well-documented evidence of atrocities, culminated in her leading a delegation of concerned citizens that met with President William McKinley in 1898 to protest the violence on a national level.

Wells-Barnett continued to fight injustice wherever she encountered it, challenging racism in the woman suffrage movement, and founded Chicago's first kindergarten for African American children.

[A congressional resolution introduced by the leadership of the Congressional Black Caucus will be presented to officials of the National Newspaper Publishers Association Foundation, sponsors of Black Press Week, and the National Newspaper Publishers Association (NNPA), the trade group for the more than 200 Black newspapers.  The resolution will cite the historic role of the Black Press as the strong, influential voice of the Black community beginning with the anti-slavery movement and the founding of the first black newspaper, Freedom's Journal on March 17, l827.]


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