Ida B. Wells

Quick Look At Wells

Ida B. Wells was a journalist, abolitionist, Women's Suffrage activist and feminist, and Civil Rights activist who led an anti-lynching crusade in the 1890s.

Early Life

Ida B. Wells-Barnett was born on July 16th, 1862, in Holly Springs, Mississippi. She was born into slavery, but due to the Emancipation Proclamation, her family was freed just six months after Wells' birth. Her father was greatly involved with the Freedman's Aid Society. He also helped found Shaw University, a college for newly freed slaves. This college is still around today and is now known as Rust College. Wells actually got her early education at Shaw University but in 1878, at the early age of 16, she had to drop out of school. Yellow fever killed both of her parents and one of her siblings, leaving her to take care of her other siblings. This was challenging at first because she didn't have the money to care for them, but she got a job as a teacher after convincing a local school administrator that she was 18. In 1882, Wells and her sisters moved to Memphis to live with their aunt. Shortly after this, Wells went back to school for a brief time at Fisk University in Tennessee. In 1884, she filed suit against a train company that kicked her off of a train even though she had a first-class ticket. She won the case in her local court, but the case went federal and the prior ruling was unfortunately overturned.


Later, one of Wells' friends was lynched, which offset her career in journalism. She began investigating white mob violence and why Black men were being lynched. In 1892, Wells published her conclusion from her investigation in a pamphlet and in local newspapers. Of course, this sparked rage throughout the white community in Tennessee. Locals burned her press and she was forced to flee Tennesse. In fact, the threats got so bad, Wells had to move all the way to Chicago! The next year, she joined the boycott of the World's Colombian Exposition. In 1895, she married a lawyer named Ferdinand Barnett and hyphenated her name to become Ida B. Wells-Barnett. After this, Wells traveled the world to fight against lynching with her anti-lynching crusade. Her activism for African American rights led her to be looked down upon by non-racial activism groups like the National Woman's Suffrage Association. Wells also published articles about the conditions of Black schools, which actually caused her to get fired from her career as a teacher! Wells continued her activism, though, fighting for so many different things through journalism, boycotts, protests, and so many more. She died on March 25, 1931.

Ida B. Wells was a brave woman who continued to persevere through everything. She faced many obstacles, but no matter what happened, she continued to fulfill her purpose and walk in her greatness.