The Civil Rights Movement required throngs of people who were brave enough to demand change. It couldn’t just be Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and Rosa Parks. Thousands of people throughout the country, and even the world, took part in fighting for freedom.
Ida B. Wells was a woman who had no plans of stepping away from her ambitions, no matter how lofty they may be. Wells was born in Mississippi in 1862. She lost her parents and three siblings to during a fever epidemic. When there was a threat that the rest of the siblings were going to be split up into foster homes, Wells wasn’t going to have any of that. She went to work as a teacher at the age of 16 and had family help her tend to her younger siblings while she worked.
Wells from a young age wasn’t afraid to speak out about her opinions regarding race and gender. And she was a good writer as well. With a bold demeanor and a witty pen, she wrote articles for local newspapers and gained a lot of notoriety. Once she wrote of the treatment she received when she was removed from a train for refusing to give up her seat. The more she wrote, the more people wanted to hear from her. She gave people courage in a time where civil rights weren’t even a whisper of a possibility.
Soon, Wells writing was taking over her job as a teacher so she co-founded a newspaper in Memphis called the Memphis Free Speech and Headlight. In the 1890’s, Wells wrote about lynchings and began exposing the practice used commonly around the south. Her reporting was disturbing and her articles were being printed in black-owned newspaper throughout the country. As more light was shed on lynching, Wells life was more in danger. At one point, her newspaper office was destroyed by white mobs who had no intention of stopping the practice of lynching.
Well’s exposes put her life in danger and as a result, she left Memphis and moved to Chicago. There she continued writing and became heavily involved in both womens rights and civil rights. She was an excellent orator and was often asked to speak both in North America and Europe. Wells is also listed as one of the founders of the NAACP.
Ida B. Wells blazed a trail in a time when many believed change wasn’t possible. It’s almost like she could see into the future and knew that her work then would affect people today.