Here is a short list of Ida B. Wells’s accomplishments: school teacher, journalist, newspaper owner, anti-lynching crusader, mother of four, civil rights leader, and black women’s suffrage advocate. She filled her life (1862-1931) with more achievements than tens of other women.
There are many images of Wells, mainly as a young woman. The photo above shows her at the age of sixty-one with a shock of white hair and an elegant dark dress.
An early fighter against segregation, Wells sued the Nashville train company in 1883 for expelling her from a first class car. She gained international fame as a fighter against lynching in the South. White Southerners justified lynching as a way to protect white women from rape by black men. With extensive research, Wells proved that lynching was most often used as a way to curb African Americans’ political and economic success. Her journalism was such an embarrassment to whites that her newspaper office in Nashville was destroyed by an angry mob.
Wells not only fought against Southern white men, but also Northern white women. She eventually settled in Chicago and was actively involved in the suffrage campaign there. When a national suffrage march was planned Washington DC in 1913, her white colleagues informed her that she could march in the back with the Negro delegation. She ignored this advice and joined the marchers at the front.
Can’t we all use a little of her spirit now?