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Ida B. Wells was an African-American journalist and activist who led an anti-lynching crusade in the United States in the 1890s.
See the fact file below for more interesting Ida B. Wells facts or alternatively, you can download our comprehensive worksheet pack to utilise within the classroom or home environment.
- Ida B. Wells was was the daughter of American slaves and was born in Holly Springs, Mississippi, on July 16, 1862.
- Her parents were James and Lizzie Wells who were were slaves owned by a man named Mr. Bolling.
- Six months after Ida was born, the Wells family, as well as the rest of the slaves of the Confederate states, were decreed free through the Emancipation Proclamation issued by President Abraham Lincoln.
- Her parents were active in the Republican Party during Reconstruction.
- Her father was involved with the Freedmen’s Aid Society and helped start Shaw University, a school for the newly freed slaves (now Rust College) and served on the first board of trustees.
- She received her early schooling there but had to drop out at the age of 16 when both of her parents and one of her siblings died in an outbreak of yellow fever.
- At the age of 18, she work as a teacher and took care of her brothers and sisters.
- In 1882, Ida moved with her sisters to Memphis, Tennessee, and lived with an aunt.
- Her brothers found work as carpenter’s apprentices and she continued her education at Fisk University in Nashville.
- She married Ferdinand Barnett in 1895, and was known as Ida B. Wells-Barnett. They had four children.
Activism & Journalism:
- A situation that occurred on a train in May 1884 acted as the catalyst for Ida’s eventual activist life.
- She bought a first-class train ticket to Nashville and the train crew ordered her to move to the car for African Americans, but she refused.
- Ida refused to move and was forced to leave her seat and was removed from the train.
- She sued the train company and won $500. Unfortunately, the Tennessee Supreme Court later overturned the decision.
- Ida began to write articles about the racial injustices of the south using the pen name “Iola,” and a number of her articles were published in black newspapers and periodicals.
- She became an owner of the Memphis Free Speech and Headlight, and the Free Speech.
- While working as a journalist and publisher, Ida was also a teacher in a segregated public school in Memphis.
- She became a vocal critic of the condition of blacks-only schools in the city.
- In 1891, she was fired from her job for these criticisms.
- In 1892, three African-American men – Tom Moss, Calvin McDowell and Will Stewart – opened a grocery store called Peoples Grocery in Memphis, which drew customers away from a white-owned store in the neighborhood.
- One night, the armed white store-owner and his supporters clashed with the three men who were fearful of an attack. Several whites were shot.
- The three men were arrested and put into police custody. They never got to go to trial to defend themselves against the charges because a white lynch mob took them from their cells and brutally tortured and murdered them.
- Ida took the topic of lynching very personally and began travelling throughout the southern states campaigning against it.
- She collected and wrote stories about lynching as a method of murdering the black community, often overriding any legal laws.
- A mob stormed the office of her newspaper, destroying all of her equipment. She was threatened with murder if she returned to Memphis.
- Ida fled to New York for safety and wrote an in-depth report on lynching in America for the New York Age, an African-American newspaper run by former slave T. Thomas Fortune.
- She wrote articles about lynching that let people throughout the country understand how often innocent African-Americans were unjustly accused and then killed without a trial.
- Ida travelled and lectured among blacks and whites that were reform-minded.
- She created a pamphlet called The Reason Why the Colored American is Not Represented in the World’s Columbian Exhibition, which was supported and funded by Frederick Douglass, a well-known freed slave, and editor/lawyer Ferdinand Barnett.
- In 1893, Ida published a personal examination of American lynchings call A Red Record.
- In 1898, she took the anti-lynching topic to President McKinley in the hope that he would assist in making reforms.
- She continued her effort for women’s rights in the African-American community by forming the National Association of Colored Women.
- She is considered to be one of the founders of the NAACP (National Association for the Advancement of Colored People).
- Ida B. Wells died of kidney disease on March 25, 1931, at the age of 68, in Chicago, Illinois.
Ida B. Wells Worksheets
This bundle includes 11 ready-to-use Ida B. Wells worksheets that are perfect for students to learn about Ida B. Wells who was an African-American journalist and activist who led an anti-lynching crusade in the United States in the 1890s.
This download includes the following worksheets:
- Ida B. Wells Facts
- Ida’s Legacy
- Emancipation Act
- Ida’s Biography
- The Train
- President McKinley
- Poet’s Corner
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