Wells-Barnett, Ida B., 1862-1931

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Ida B. Wells (b. July 16, 1862, Holly Springs, MS - d. March 25, 1931, Chicago, IL) was born in Holly Springs, Mississippi in 1862, six months before the Emancipation Proclamation granted freedom to her slave parents. Following the death of both her parents of yellow fever in 1878, Ida, at age 16, began teaching in a one-room schoolhouse in rural Mississippi. Some time between 1882 and 1883 Wells moved to Memphis, Tennessee, to teach in city schools. She was dismissed, in 1891, for her outspoken criticism of segregated schools.

Her dismissal from the Memphis school system would be the beginning of her protests about justice, particularly as they pertained to the treatment of black Americans. In 1884 Ida B. Wells sued the Chesapeake & Ohio Railroad for forcing blacks to ride in segregated and inferior carriages. Ida B. Wells won this case in the local court, but was defeated in the Supreme Court. Undaunted by heavy opposition and a seemingly hopeless cause, however, Wells, from that point on, made the welfare of African American people her main concern, meeting every obstacle head on with a characteristic determination.

A firm believer in the necessity for vast change, and in the value of education and direct challenge to bring this change about, Ida B. Wells began contributing articles to newspapers in 1887. She used these articles as a political tactic to further her cause; something she continued to do all her life. As editor of the Memphis Free Speech, her editorials condemning “lynch law” caused white mobs to wreck her press. One of the foremost crusaders against lynching, Wells was not silenced by such threats. Twice, in 1893 and 1894, she took her cause abroad on speaking tours of England, Scotland, and Wales.

In 1895 she published A Red Record: Tabulated Statistics and Alleged Causes of Lynchings in the United States, 1892-1893-1894 (Chicago: [1895]). The years 1893-1895 also saw Wells produce, with Frederick Douglass, Ferdinand L. Barnett (whom she was to marry in 1895), and I. Garland Penn, the booklet, The Reason Why the Colored American Is Not in the Columbian Exposition -- The Afro-American’s Contribution to Columbian Literature (Chicago: Ida B. Wells, 1893).

From 1910 on, Wells moved within the mainstream of black civic and political life in Chicago. She had, in earlier years, founded civic clubs -- the first of their kind for black American women; the Ida B. Wells Women’s Club is still in existence today. Between 1910 and 1931 she established the Negro Fellowship League, was instrumental in the founding of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, and organized the Alpha Suffrage Club, the first suffrage club for black Women. She led the fight to elect Chicago’s first black alderman and congressman, Oscar DePriest, and herself ran (unsuccessfully) for state senator of Illinois in 1930. Her participation and leadership in numerous organizations, and her constant vigilance in the interests of black Americans was far-reaching.and a particularly difficult and courageous task.

About 1927, Ida B. Wells began to write her autobiography, which she finished before her death on March 21, 1931. Edited by her daughter, Alfreda M. Duster, the autobiography was published as Crusade for Justice: The Autobiography of Ida B. Wells, as part of a series of Negro American Biographies and Autobiographies edited by John Hope Franklin (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1970).

Ida Bell Wells-Barnett (b. July 16, 1862, Holly Springs, Mississippi-d. March 25, 1931, Chicago, Illinois), also known as Ida B. Wells, was an African-American journalist, newspaper editor, suffragist, sociologist, feminist, Georgist, and an early leader in the Civil Rights Movement. She was one of the founders of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) in 1909.
Archival Resources
Role Title Holding Repository
creatorOf Wells-Barnett, Ida B., 1862-1931. Papers, 1884-1976 (inclusive). University of Chicago Library
referencedIn Black Women Oral History Project. Interviews, 1976-1981 (inclusive). Harvard University, Schlesinger Library
referencedIn McFarlane, Bryan,. Black journalists, then & now [manuscript], 1986-1987. Oregon Historical Society Research Library
referencedIn McCulloch, Catharine Waugh, b. 1862. Series VI of the Mary Earhart Dillon Collection, 1869-1945 (inclusive). Harvard University, Schlesinger Library
referencedIn Durham, Richard. Richard Durham radio scripts, 1948-1950. Chicago History Museum
creatorOf Letter from Ida B. Wells-Barnett to President Woodrow Wilson Protesting General Ballou's Bulletin Number 35 for the 92nd Division, Camp Funston, Kansas United States. National Archives and Records Administration
referencedIn Starr, Frederick. Papers, 1868-1935 Special Collections Research Center, University of Chicago Library,
creatorOf Letter from Ida B. Wells-Barnett to Mr. Dawes United States. National Archives and Records Administration
referencedIn Ida B. Wells: A Passion for Justice United States. National Archives and Records Administration
referencedIn Sophia Smith Collection. Women's Rights Collection, 1789-1999 (ongoing) (bulk 1846-1983). Smith College, Neilson Library
referencedIn Frederick Douglass Papers 1841-1967 (bulk 1862-1895) Library of Congress. Manuscript Division
referencedIn Black Women Oral History Project. Records, 1976-1997 (inclusive). Harvard University, Schlesinger Library
referencedIn HRC Weekly Column: [National Service 3/17/98] United States. National Archives and Records Administration
referencedIn Papers, 1895?-1995 Schlesinger Library, Radcliffe Institute
referencedIn Chesnutt, Charles Waddell, 1858-1932. Charles W. Chesnutt papers, 1864-1938. Lincoln Memorial University Library, Carnegie-Vincent Library
referencedIn Papers, 1869-1945 Schlesinger Library, Radcliffe Institute
creatorOf Karamu House Records 1914-1979 Western Reserve Historical Society
referencedIn Behind the Veil: Documenting African-American Life in the Jim Crow South Records, 1940-1997 and undated, (bulk 1993-1997) David M. Rubenstein Rare Book & Manuscript Library
referencedIn Douglass, Frederick, 1818-1895. Papers of Frederick Douglass, 1841-1967 (bulk 1862-1895) Library of Congress
referencedIn Flexner, Eleanor, 1908-1995. Papers, 1895?-1995 (inclusive). Harvard University, Schlesinger Library
referencedIn Douglass, Frederick, 1818-1895. Frederick Douglass collection, 1859-1894. New York Public Library System, NYPL
referencedIn Starr, Frederick, 1858-1933. Papers, 1868-1935 (inclusive), 1892-1923 (bulk). University of Chicago Library
referencedIn Women in Politics - 10/27/99 United States. National Archives and Records Administration
creatorOf Crawford, Floyd Wardlaw. Paper. 1963. Tulane University, Amistad Research Center
referencedIn Dobbs, Jeannine. Class essays, 1977. Harvard University, Schlesinger Library
creatorOf Wells, Ida B. Papers, 1884-1976 Special Collections Research Center, University of Chicago Library,
referencedIn Frederick Douglass collection, 1859-1894 The New York Public Library. Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture, Manuscripts, Archives and Rare Books Division.
referencedIn Women's Rights Collection MS 397., 1789-2000, 1864-1983 Sophia Smith Collection
referencedIn Rouss, Celelia A. Barnett. Collections. 1874-1875, 1897-1908, 1928-1931. Tulane University, Amistad Research Center
referencedIn Black journalists, then & now, 1986-1987 Oregon Historical Society Research Library
creatorOf Young, John H., 1887-. John H. Young papers, 1911-1977. Chicago History Museum
Relation Name
associatedWith Barnett, Ferdinand person
associatedWith Barnett, Ferdinand. person
associatedWith Behind the Veil Project Oral History Project corporateBody
associatedWith Black Women Oral History Project. corporateBody
associatedWith Black Women Oral History Project. corporateBody
associatedWith Catharine Gouger (Waugh) McCullouch, 1862-1945 person
correspondedWith Chesnutt, Charles Waddell, 1858-1932. person
associatedWith Crawford, Floyd Wardlaw. person
associatedWith Dobbs, Jeannine. person
associatedWith Douglass, Frederick, 1818-1895. person
associatedWith Durham, Richard. person
associatedWith Duster, Alfreda, 1904- person
associatedWith Eleanor Flexner, 1908- person
alumnusOrAlumnaOf Fisk University corporateBody
associatedWith Flexner, Eleanor, 1908-1995. person
associatedWith Karamu House. corporateBody
alumnusOrAlumnaOf LeMoyne-Owen College corporateBody
associatedWith McCulloch, Catharine Waugh, b. 1862. person
associatedWith McFarlane, Bryan, person
associatedWith McFarlane, Bryan, artist. person
founderOf National Association for the Advancement of Colored People. corporateBody
founderOf National Association of Colored Women's Clubs (U.S.) corporateBody
associatedWith Negro Fellowship League (Chicago, Ill.) corporateBody
associatedWith Rouss, Celelia A. Barnett. person
alumnusOrAlumnaOf Shaw University corporateBody
associatedWith Starr, Frederick, 1858-1933. person
associatedWith Tourgée, Albion Winegar, 1838-1905. person
correspondedWith Wilson, Woodrow, 1856-1924 person
associatedWith World’s Columbian Exposition corporateBody
associatedWith Young, John H., 1887- person
Place Name Admin Code Country
United States 00 US
Holly Springs MS US
Chicago IL US
Subject
African Americans
Lynching
African American women
African American journalists
Occupation
Slaves
Civil rights workers
Newspaper editors
Function

Person

Birth 1862-07-16

Death 1931-03-25

Female

Americans

English

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