Figure 6: Ida B Wells

IdaOverlooked: Ida B Wells (1862-1931) was a woman who refused to be silent. Born a slave in the American south, Ida went on to earn a college education and became a teacher.

Her vocal objections to the injustices done to black Americans began in 1887, when she was forcibly removed from the first class carriage of a train despite having the correct ticket. Ida subsequently bought a share of the ‘Free Speech and Headlight’ newspaper and began writing articles to further the cause of civil rights.

She continued to gain ground when three of her friends were lynched. Ida then investigated lynchings, and through a series of pamphlets, lectures and articles she challenged the myth of the black man raping the white woman that was often used to justify the lynchings. Mobs destroyed her office and threatened to kill her. Nevertheless, she persisted. She continued to spread her message, and even came to the UK to establish the British Anti Lynching Society in 1894.

She founded or was co-founder of many other societies, including the NAACP, the organisation whose work eventually led to the 1964 legislation banning racial discrimination. She also ran for senate and fought for women’s sufferage, at a time when many of the white suffragists were extremely racist and tried to further their cause by excluding black women.

The New York Times’ recent ‘Overlooked’ series of obituaries put it best:

“She pioneered reporting techniques that remain central tenets of modern journalism. And as a former slave who stood less than five feet tall, she took on structural racism more than half a century before her strategies were repurposed, often without crediting her, during the 1960s civil rights movement.”

Thank goodness for Ida, whose work really advanced the causes of African Americans and whose actions and words were so ahead of her time. I think that reading about her for yourself is the best way to appreciate what an amazing woman she was:

You can read the New York Times article here.

Read more about her here.

Thank you for reading!!

 

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