Ida Bell Wells-Barnett (July 16, 1862 – March 25, 1931) was an African-American journalist, newspaper editor, suffragist, sociologist, and an early leader in the civil rights movement. About the book: https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/0195088123/ref=as_li_tl?ie=UTF8&camp=1789&creative=9325&creativeASIN=0195088123&linkCode=as2&tag=tra0c7-20&linkId=568652f602e0d67ddcb956a565fa6a5c
She documented lynching in the United States, showing that it was often used as a way to control or punish blacks who competed with whites, rather than being based in criminal acts by blacks, as was usually claimed by white mobs. She was active in women’s rights and the women’s suffrage movement, establishing several notable women’s organizations. Wells was a skilled and persuasive rhetorician, and traveled internationally on lecture tours.
Ida Bell Wells was born a slave in Holly Springs, Mississippi in 1862, just before United States President Abraham Lincoln issued the Emancipation Proclamation. Her father was James Wells and her mother was Elizabeth “Lizzie” Warrenton Wells. Both parents were enslaved until freed under the Proclamation.
Ida’s father James was a master at carpentry; he was a “race man” who worked for the advancement of blacks. He was very interested in politics and was a member of the Loyal League. He attended Shaw University in Holly Springs (now Rust College) but dropped out to help his family. He also attended public speeches and campaigned for local black candidates, but never ran for office himself. Her mother Lizzie was a cook for the Bolling household before her death from yellow fever. She was a religious woman who was very strict with her children.
Ida attended Shaw as well but was expelled for her rebellious behavior and temper after confronting the college president. While visiting her grandmother in the Mississippi Valley in 1878, Ida, then aged 16, received word that Holly Springs had suffered a yellow fever epidemic. Both her parents and her 10-month-old brother, Stanley, died in that event, leaving her and her five siblings orphaned.
In 1892 she published a pamphlet titled Southern Horrors: Lynch Law in All Its Phases, and A Red Record, 1892–1894, which documented research on a lynching. Having examined many accounts of lynching based on the alleged “rape of white women,” she concluded that Southerners concocted rape as an excuse to hide their real reason for lynchings: black economic progress, which threatened not only white Southerners’ pocketbooks, but also their ideas about black inferiority. The notion of black economic progress was a contemporary issue in the South, where abstract Reconstruction laws often conflicted with real Southern racism.
Throughout her life, Wells was militant in her demands for equality and justice for African-Americans and insisted that the African-American community to win justice through its own efforts. Since her death, interest in her life and legacy has grown.
Her life is the subject of Constant Star (2006), a widely performed musical drama by Tazewell Thompson. The play sums her up:
…A woman born in slavery, she would grow to become one of the great pioneer activists of the Civil Rights movement. A precursor of Rosa Parks, she was a suffragist, newspaper editor and publisher, investigative journalist, co-founder of the NAACP, political candidate, mother, wife, and the single most powerful leader in the anti-lynching campaign in America. A dynamic, controversial, temperamental, uncompromising race woman, she broke bread and crossed swords with some of the movers and shakers of her time: Frederick Douglass, Susan B. Anthony, Marcus Garvey, Booker T. Washington, W. E. B. Du Bois, Frances Willard, and President McKinley. By any fair assessment, she was a seminal figure in Post-Reconstruction America.
In 1941, the Public Works Administration (PWA) built a Chicago Housing Authority public housing project in the Bronzeville neighborhood on the south side in Chicago; it was named the Ida B. Wells Homes in her honor. The buildings were demolished in August 2011.
On February 1, 1990, the United States Postal Service issued a 25-cent postage stamp in her honor. In 2002, Molefi Kete Asante listed Wells on his list of 100 Greatest African Americans.
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