Ida B. Wells is many things. A mother, a journalist, a teacher, an anti-lynching crusader, a women’s rights activist, and a civil rights pioneer. But above all, she is a hero. She faced many challenges in her life, including being born into slavery, and being orphaned at the age of sixteen. But even with all that befell her, she still managed to pave the way to a better life for herself and others.
Ida Bell Wells was born into slavery as the oldest of 7 children in Holly Springs, Mississippi on July 16, 1862. Shortly after her birth, Ida and her parents were freed under the Emancipation Proclamation, which was issued on January 1, 1863. Her father was considered a “race man”, who worked for the advancement of Black people, doing things such as campaigning for African-American political candidates, although he never ran for office himself. He also attended Shaw College, although he had to drop out to help support his family. When Ida was sixteen, while visiting a grandmother in Memphis, she received word that a yellow fever epidemic had struck Holly Springs, leaving her parents and ten month old brother dead. Now orphaned, Ida secured a teaching position to support her remaining five siblings.
Ida attended Shaw’s College, but left before she could graduate. Shortly after that, she moved to Memphis and started her crusades for the betterment of life for herself and others. There, she began to write editorials under the pen name Iola condemning violence against blacks, poor schools, disfranchisement, and the failure of black people to utilize the full potential of their rights. In 1892, Tom Moss, a friend of Ida’s and a well-respected black store owner was lynched, along with two of his friends, after trying to defend his store from an attack by white men. This marked the beginning of her efforts against lynching. She wrote many pamphlets, and published articles in her newspaper. While she was out of town, her newspaper was destroyed by a mob. She was warned against returning to Memphis, because she was so hated by many of its more militant racist members. After this, she traveled around other areas of the United States, Great Britain, and other areas of the United Kingdom, presenting her anti-lynching campaign. She was well received in many of the areas she visited to, making a positive change throughout. Part of the reason Ida’s words on the subject were so passionate was because, not only did she strongly believe that this was wrong, one of her friends had been lynched, and she was speaking from personal experience of the cruelty of lynching.
In 1895, Ida married Ferdinand L. Barnett, becoming Ida B. Wells-Barnett. She had moved to Chicago a short time before this. The year after she married Barnett, she helped to found the National Association of Colored Women, which was a program that fused other organizations into one working for a main goal. They worked to get equal pay and job training for African American...