Ida Bell Wells is born a slave
in Holly Springs, Mississippi, on July 16, to a slave carpenter,
Jim Wells and cook mother, Elizabeth Warrenton.
Civil War is over, with slavery
institution in the South having been abolished by the Emancipation
Proclamation. Ida's parents are freed.
After the death of her parents
and one of her siblings, Ida decides to take responsibility for
her family's welfare by becoming a teacher. Eventually, she moves
to Memphis with younger sisters Annie and Lily.
Ida adopts the pen name Iola and begins writing articles for the
Living Way. One day while sitting in the Lady's Car of a train,
she is forced by the white conductor
to get off. She files a lawsuit against the Chesapeake & Ohio
Railroad and wins in the local courts in December.
She is chosen as secretary of the National Colored Press Association.
Ida enters a three part ownership of the black newspaper Free
Speech, with Baptist minister Taylor Nightingale and journalist
J.L. Fleming. She pursues her journalist career with passionate
articles; one in particular, on Memphis schools, causes her to
lose her teaching job.
Ida's article on black-white relationships rocks
the city of Memphis and arouses indignation in the hearts
of the people. The Free Speech office is destroyed by a mob, and
she is forced to relocate to New York after her life is threatened.
She's offered a partnership and weekly column in the New York
Age and thus is still able to wage her campaign from the North.
Ida gets a golden opportunity: combating
lynching on an international
level. Going abroad and touring Europe, she gives numerous
poignant lectures on the lynch law in America. Upon returning,
she joins with Frederick Douglass, Ferdinand Lee Barnett, and
others to publish the pamphlet The Reason Why the Colored American
Is Not in the World's Columbian Exposition for the Colored
Jubilee Day .
Ida, having found her lifelong companion in Ferdinand Lee Barnett,
a lawyer and founder of the Chicago Conservator, marries
him on June 27. She also publishes A Red Record: Tabulated
Statistics and Alleged causes of Lynching in the the United States,
a compilation of lynching facts and accounts on some particularly
Ida rejoices in motherhood with her first son, Charles. Meanwhile,
she helps establish National Association of Colored Women (NACW).
Ida has her second son, Herman. Now feeling the burden of maintaining
a family, she relinquishes presidency of the Ida B Wells Club.
When she learns of the brutal murder
of a black postmaster Ida agrees to be the delegate chosen
to protest to President McKinley himself. With the outbreak of
the Spanish-American War, she works with others to form a black
Ida gives birth to her first daughter, who is named after herself--Ida
Ida has her second daughter, Alfreda.
Ida takes part in the founding of one of America's most influential
oganizations, the NAACP.
Ida takes up a new kind of project. Seeing the plight of the black
members of her community who were down on their luck or out on
the streets she establishes for them a haven, the Negro
Fellowship League Reading Room and Social Center.
Besides fighting segregation
and racism, Ida also targets gender discrimination and establishes
the Alpha Suffrage Club. later she participates in a powerful
women's rights demonstration
in Washington D.C.
To her bitter disappointment, Ida is no longer able to fund the
Negro Fellowship League and, after ten years of service, it is
Reflecting upon her life, Ida realizes she has a message to leave
to give to future generations, both about her time in which she
lived and her war against the lynch law. She brings everything
togeher in a moving biography, appropriately titled Crusade
Though she is over seventy years old, Ida embarks upon a new task;
running for state legislature.
With relentless vigor she campaigns, distributing posters and
giving speeches. Though she loses the race, Ida sets and important
example for women daring to break down gender barriers.
Her extraordinary life comes to an end. Ida dies of uremia on