Black History Month Spotlight: Ida B. Wells

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Happy Black History Month! I wanted to spotlight different women this month as a way to honor them, remember them and hopefully inspire other women. My first spotlight is Ida B. Wells.

I choose Ida B. Wells as my first spotlight. Ida B. Wells was considered one of the most famous African-American woman in the United States during her time. She was a powerful journalist that pioneered reporting techniques that are still implemented today (NYT obituary).

Wells was born into slavery in Mississippi. After yellow fever swept through her town, killing her brother and her parents, Wells moved her siblings to Memphis and worked as a teacher to provide for them (Women’s History). After her move to Memphis, Wells was arrested for sitting in an all-white Women train car, despite having a ticket. Wells sued and won her case, however it was overturned in the Tennessee Appeals Court.

In Memphis, Wells co-founded a newspaper called The Free Speech and Headlight. Through this newspaper, she wrote articles condemning violence against blacks, disenfranchisement, poor schools and other issues that plagued black people south. A pivotal moment in Wells’ life was when her close friend Thomas Moss was lynched in Memphis. Wells would become known for her famous anti-lynching campaign that followed this traumatizing event (Jim Crow Stories). The lynching of Moss is known as The People’s Grocery Lynching and happened on March 2, 1982. To read more about it, you can go here (JSTOR).

Through her newspaper, Wells questioned the reason behind lynchings and to expose the violence the black people faced in the South. Her writings were published abroad and in 200 black weeklies (NYTimes). Her lynching profiles was what she became more famous for, but she was also one of the first activist to implement economic boycotts. These forms of boycotts were made famously by the sit-in and the Montgomery Bus Boycott that happened later.

Another big accomplishment that is often attributed to other people is her help with founding the National Association of Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) and National Association of Colored Women (NYTimes). Wells accomplished a lot in her lifetime, but was eventually pushed out for activist like Booker T. Washington and W.E.B. Du Bois.

Her life was filled with activism, bringing attention to black violence in the south and empowering black people. She was a powerful woman who didn’t backdown in the face of violence and threats. She is often forgotten about during the stories of the Civil Rights Movement.

I hope you enjoyed learning more about Ida B. Wells and our next spotlight will be Wangari Maathai so stay tuned next week to learn about the first Black Woman Nobel Peace Prize Winner.

Here are some books about Ida B. Wells if you want to read more about her.

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