BHM2021: Ida B. Well used Freedom of the Press in 19th Century crusade

"When I grew up on the Southside of Chicago, very close to the massive Wells housing developments, you came to know the name' Ida B.' synonymous with "don't take no mess." It was a tough place yet filled with a sense of community pride. In its beginnings, it was a beautiful campus that provided housing and supportive services for Black families and was a place for organizing. These attributes are certainly in the spirit of a great woman who did not allow unjust circumstances to happen to herself or others without a fight. The freedom of the press is a fundamental right that we have as Americans. As a writer, Wells was protected by the 1st Amendment to tell our stories and help advance Black Americans' condition. The Martin Luther King Republicans encourage you to study how Black Americans have used the Constitution and why it is essential to maintain.- Jimmy Lee Tillman, II founder, and president.


Ida Bell Wells-Barnett was born on July 16, 1862. She was a Black journalist, an advocate of civil rights, women's rights, economic rights, and an anti-lynching crusader.

Ida B. Wells-Barnett, the first of eight children, was born six months before the enactment of the Emancipation Proclamation. She attended Shaw University (now Rust College) in her hometown of Holly Springs, MS, until she was forced to drop out when her parents died of yellow fever in 1878. Following their deaths, Wells-Barnett supported herself and her siblings by working as a schoolteacher in rural Mississippi and Tennessee.

She took summer courses at Fisk University and continued to teach through 1891 when she was fired for writing an editorial that accused the Memphis school board of providing inadequate resources to segregated black schools. In May 1884, Wells-Barnett sued a railroad company after being forced off a train to refuse to sit in the Jim Crow car designated for Blacks. Wells-Barnett embarked on a journalism career when she was elected editor of The Evening Star and then The Living Way, weekly church newspapers in Memphis. Her articles, written under the alias "Iola," were direct and confrontational.

Two editorials she wrote in 1892, in response to the persecution and eventual lynching of three Black businessmen, were particularly controversial. The first encouraged Blacks to leave Memphis for Oklahoma and boycott segregated transportation. The second suggested that white women were often the willing initiators in interracial relationships. In 1895, she published an analysis of lynching called "A Red Record."

She helped to found the National Association of Colored Women in 1896, the Negro Fellowship League, and the NAACP in 1909. During the last 15 years of her life, Wells-Barnett wrote extensively on the 1917 race riots in East St. Louis (1917), Chicago (1919), and Arkansas (1922). She continued to promote civil rights and justice for African Americans. In honor of her legacy, a low-income housing project in Chicago was named after her in 1941, and in 1990, the U.S. Postal Service issued an Ida B. Wells-Barnett stamp. A champion of publishing the intersectionality of black women and humanity in America, Ida B. Wells died on March 25, 1931, in Chicago, Ill.


The Encyclopedia Britannica, Fifteenth Edition.

Copyright 1996 Encyclopedia Britannica Inc.

ISBN 0-85229-633-0

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