By Nonso Nwagbo
“I felt that one had better die fighting against injustice than to die like a dog or rat in a trap” – Ida B. Wells
Ida B. Wells was one of the earlier African-American activists long before Dr. Martin Luther King. She was born a slave on July 16, 1862, the eldest daughter of eight children in Holly Springs, Mississippi.
When it was considered laughable for women to think of voting, Ida Wells was indeed a strong voice of the feminist movement. With this article, we explore some of her more significant roles in advancing black history and her relevance to Chicago.
Why Ida B. Wells Is Significant To Black History
How best does one refer to this black history icon: civil rights activist, suffragist, teacher, author, feminist, journalist, or anti-lynching activist? Wells was all of this and more in a time when the USA kept young, and innocent black folks were being lynched, even when in police custody.
On March 9, 1892, a white mob stormed a Memphis jail, seized three Black men held inside, and brutally lynched them without trial. These victims were Well’s friends, Will Stewart, Tom Moss, and Calvin McDowell. She took it upon herself to put her skills to the work and covered blacks’ lynching previously unreported. Wells researched more than 700 lynchings in America, mostly done on the road for months, and armed with a pistol.
With too many death threats and her newspaper offices and equipment destroyed, Wells moved down north to Chicago.
One of her main contributions to black history was co-founding the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) in 1898. She saw her take her anti-lynching campaign to the White House when she led a Washington D.C protest.
She fought for improved educational opportunities for black students and opposed the idea of segregated schools, being a teacher herself.
Ida B. Wells Significance And Contribution To The City Of Chicago
After establishing herself as a renowned civil rights activist, investigative journalist, and anti-lynching advocate, Ida B. Wells moved to Chicago in 1894. At the age of 32, Ida had lived a life only a few could survive.
From being born a slave to becoming a well-traveled journalist championing for blacks and women’s rights alike, Ida B. Wells made lots of significant accomplishments to the city of Chicago, most of which we still enjoy to date. Some of Ida B. Wells contributions include:
From being born a slave to becoming a well-traveled journalist championing for the rights of blacks and women alike. Ida B. Wells made lots of significant accomplishments to the city of Chicago most of which we still enjoy to date.
- Ida B. Wells helped organize black political power in Chicago and women’s voting rights. This led to the founding of the first women’s suffrage organization for black women called the Alpha Suffrage Club.
- For years, Ida worked as a public school teacher, but there was only one option for private kindergarten upon arriving in Chicago. Its waiting list for black children much discouraged enrollment. But Ida B. Wells helped create the first kindergarten for the black community, which started in Bethel A.M.E Church’s lecture room.
- She rebuked the exclusion of African-Americans from the Chicago World’s Fair.
- At the age of 68, she became one of the first African-American women to run for office in America when she ran for the legislature in Illinois. This laid the foundation for more women of various races to pursue public offices.
For more information on Ida B. Wells for kids, go to SankofaChicago.com
But for her investigation skills and a flair for journalism and the truth, many lynching deaths that involved innocent blacks would’ve gone unnoticed. Ida B. Wells fought for civil rights and women’s rights, and black kids’ rights.
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