“They had made me an exile and threatened my life for hinting at the truth.”
Technically born enslaved in Holly Springs, Mississippi in 1862, American Hero Ida B. Wells grew to become known as a vocal journalist, editor, suffragist, and civil rights activist. A Black Woman in a country founded upon the atrocious pillars of slavery and brutality of racism, her life was all but easy.
At the tender age of 16 she was left without parents after yellow fever claimed both of their lives and the life of her youngest sibling. Determined to keep her family from a likely split if they were to enter the foster system, Wells chose to become the primary caretaker of her younger siblings and landed a job as a teacher to earn money. After a few years, Ida decided to move to Memphis with her three youngest siblings, the other two were old enough to make a living on their own, in order to be closer to other family members.
While in Tennessee, she taught during the school year and attended Fisk University - an HBCU located in Nashville - in the summers. All was as well as it could be until one train ride between Memphis and Nashville set her life on a path that generations after benefited from. As she enjoyed the ride that she paid for with her hard earned money, the train conductor approached her and demanded that she’d give up her seat and move to the train’s smoking car. Not one to fold under the pressures of life, nor society, Wells understandably refused to move. She was subsequently removed from the train by force; however, this incident served as the catalyst to spark her career behind a pen as she wrote a newspaper article in regards to this issue for The Living Way.
The article that she penned led to weekly articles for the newspaper and an editorial position for Evening Star in DC. In 1889, she became the co-owner and editor of Free Speech and Headlight, a newspaper started by Reverend Taylor Nightingale that published articles on racial injustice.
Around the same time a close friend of hers was lynched, which led to the creation of an anti-lynching campaign by Ida, and pushed her to investigate and write about various cases of Blacks that were lynched. Throughout her investigations, she found that claims of Blacks being lynched for assaults on white women were completely inaccurate and concluded that white mobs lynched innocent Blacks when they felt that Blacks gained too much economic and social power - hello Greenwood and the many other Black communities around the United States that met the same fate.
Ida’s campaign took her on tours around the country and twice to Europe. She continued to fight against the racial injustices that blacks experienced and established a number of organizations for Blacks and Women.
From a young age, this American Hero was a fighter. Ida B. Wells has done an unimaginable amount of work for Blacks and, although lesser-known, Women throughout her lifetime, and there is no way that this introduction to her can give complete justice to her legacy. It is up to you to take the time to research the legend of Ida B. Wells!