Ida B. Wells

Black History Month Profile

Ida Bell Wells, was an activist, abolitionist, and journalist that used the power of writing to help change the amount of lynching within the United States.

Ida B. Wells was born on July 16, 1862, in Holly Springs, Mississippi. She born into slavery, but her family was free by the release of the Emancipation Proclamation a few months after her birth. Her father helped found Shaw University, or now considered Rust College in 1866. She attended school at Shaw University and later had to drop out to care for her newly orphaned siblings. Both of Well’s parents and one sibling had died due to a yellow fever outbreak, which caused her and her siblings to move in with their aunt in Memphis, Tennessee.

In 1884 Wells was on a train ride to Nashville, when her Journalist career began. She was forcefully dragged off a train, because of her refusal move to the African-American car. She sued the railroad station and had won a $500 settlement in a circuit court case until it was overturned by the Tennessee Supreme Court. She began writing about the injustice throughout the South and became an owner of Memphis Free Speech and Headlight.

In 1892 Wells began her anti-lynching campaign after an incident at a black-owned grocery store, that resulted in the lynching of three men. The men were put into jail, and before they could even face trial, a mob came and murdered or lynched them. Wells traveled throughout the south to write similar stories. She moved to the North and wrote a report on lynching for the ‘New York Age’.

In 1893, Wells created ‘The Red Record’ an excerpt of African-American suffrage throughout the south and in-depth detail about lynching throughout the United States.

She helped form the National Association of Colored Women in 1896 and went to conferences for the NAACP (National Association for the Advancement of Colored People).

Wells died on March 25, 1931, leaving a legacy of justice created through her own writing and journalism.