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EEW Magazine Profiles In Black History Series: Ida B.
Wells
Article By  Empowering Everyday Women // Black History Profile Series

FEBRUARY 13, 2017

Ida B. Wells was an African-American journalist, suffragist, feminist and a fierce campaigner against
lynchings.

Ida was born in Holly Springs Mississippi in 1862, and lost both her parents (as well as one of her
siblings) at age 16 to a yellow fever epidemic in 1878.

Rather than have the surviving family split up and put in foster homes, Ida found work as a teacher
in a black elementary school, and her grandmother would watch her siblings while Ida was away
teaching.

In the 1890s, Ida began investigative journalism by examining the charges given for death by
lynching. Her research revealed that lynching was commonly used in the South as a way to control
or punish black people who economically competed with whites, rather than as punishment for an
actual crime.

To raise awareness and opposition to lynching, Ida spoke to groups in New York City, where her
audiences included a good amount of female African American leaders.

Due to the many threats made against her by angry Southern whites, Ida was forced to move from
her home in Memphis, Tennessee to Chicago, Illinois. However, she was not silenced. She went on
two tours to Europe in 1893 and 1894 to awaken the British public to the problem of lynching in the
U.S.

Before leaving the United States for her second visit to Great Britain in 1894, Ida wrote an article for
Daily Inter-Ocean, the only major white newspaper that persistently denounced lynching.

Later in that same year, she helped form a Republican Women’s Club, and in 1896, she founded
the National Association of Colored Women’s Clubs and was a leader of the National Afro-American
Council.

Ida also worked to improve conditions for Chicago’s rapidly growing African-American population,
which was composed of blacks leaving the South in the Great Migration to find better jobs in the
North.

Once she finally retired, Ida began to write her autobiography. The book was never finished, as she
died on March 25, 1931, age 68.

On February 1, 1990, the United States Postal Service sent out a 25-cent postage stamp in her
honor; and in 2002,
Molefi Kete Asante listed Ida on his list of 100 Greatest African Americans.
Copyright © 2017-2020 Empowering Everyday Women Ministries, Inc. All rights reserved.
Reproduction in whole or in part without permission is prohibited.
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