Updated: Jul 18, 2021
Teach Out Gathering Time
Sunday, July 25. 5:00-7:00pm PST
Zoom Link: https://zoom.us/j/98440287294
Meeting ID: 984 4028 7294
400 souls: reflecting on a community history of african america
we convene in honor of Ida B. Wells
Ida B. Wells-Barnett was a prominent journalist, activist, and researcher, in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. as a skilled writer, Wells-Barnett used journalism to shed light on the conditions of Black people throughout the US American South.
Wells was born in Holly Springs, Mississippi in 1862. she was born into enslavement during the Civil War. once the war ended, Wells’ parents became politically active in Reconstruction Era politics. she enrolled at Rust College but was expelled when she started a dispute with the university president. in 1878, Wells went to visit her grandmother. while there, Wells was informed that a yellow fever epidemic had hit her hometown, taking both of her parents and her infant brother. left to raise her brothers and sister, Wells took a job as a teacher so that she could keep the family together. eventually, she moved her siblings to Memphis, Tennessee where she worked as a teacher.
in 1884, Wells filed a lawsuit against a train car company in Memphis for unfair treatment. she had been thrown off a first-class train, despite having a ticket. although she won the case on the local level, the ruling was eventually overturned in federal court. after the lynching of one of her friends, Wells turned her attention to white mob violence. she became skeptical about the reasons Black men were lynched and set out to investigate several cases. she published her findings in a pamphlet - now known as the infamous "Lynch Law" - and wrote several columns in local newspapers. her expose about an 1892 lynching enraged locals, who burned her press and drove her from Memphis. after a few months, the threats became so bad she was forced to move to Chicago, Illinois.
in 1893, Wells joined other African American leaders in calling for the boycott of the World’s Columbian Exposition. the boycotters accused the exposition committee of locking out Black Americans and negatively portraying the Black community. in 1895, Wells married famed lawyer Ferdinand Barnett. together, the couple had four children.
Wells-Barnett traveled internationally, shedding light on lynching to international audiences. abroad, she openly confronted white women in the suffrage movement who ignored lynching. because of her stance, she was often ridiculed and ostracized by women’s suffrage organizations in the United States. nevertheless, Wells-Barnett remained active the women’s rights movement. she was a founder of the National Association of Colored Women’s Club, created to address issues dealing with civil rights and women’s suffrage. although she was in Niagara Falls for the founding of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP), her name is not mentioned as an official founder. late in her career, Wells-Barnett focused on urban reform in the growing city of Chicago. she continued to advocate for issues of civic equality and race liberation until her death on March 25th, 1931.
*much of the above biography credited to Arlisha R. Norwood, National Women's History Museum Fellow | 2017