Ida B. Wells

Ida B. Wells-Barnett was born in Holly Springs, Mississippi in 1862. In 1884, she was asked by the Chesapeake & Ohio Railroad Company to give up her seat and move to the “colored” car. Wells sued the Company and won her case in local circuit courts, but the Supreme Court of Tennessee eventually overruled her earlier victory.

After this experience, Wells became a successful journalist in Memphis. In 1892, three of her friends were lynched. Wells wrote about the lynching and as a result white citizens burned her newspaper office and ran her out of town. Wells moved to Chicago, where she continued her crusade against lynching.

In Chicago she also founded numerous organizations for African American women, and became involved in the suffrage movement. Along with Jane Addams, she successfully prevented Chicago from establishing segregated schools.

In 1895, Wells married Attorney F. L. Barnett, who was the editor of one of Chicago’s black newspapers. Wells-Barnett was also involved in the founding of the NAACP, and in 1930, she ran for the Illinois State legislature. In 1931, she died at the age of sixty-nine. Ida B. Wells-Barnett was one of our nation’s most fearless crusaders for African American and women’s rights, using the power of her pen to effect meaningful change.


Ida B. Wells, Library of Congress, LC-USZ62-107756