July 16: Ida B. Wells’ 153rd Birthday!

IDA B. WELLS: 1862-1931

Anti-Lynching Journalist, Women’s Rights Advocate

Ida B. WellsA SHERO of Women’s eNews, Wells set examples and broke ground for generations of women and men through her refusal to accept the racial and sexist prejudices that cause harm, trauma and death.

July 16 is her 153rd birthday. Born in 1862, Wells worked and lived as a teacher, a journalist, a suffragist, an activist, a founder, a politician, and much more. She was a pioneer who left us many reasons to celebrate her.

As a women’s news organization, we are especially drawn to her work as an investigative journalist at the turn of the century.

In 1892, the newspaper owned by Ida B. Wells in Memphis, Tenn., was burned to the ground in response to her editorial condemning the lynching of three of her friends. Wells fled Memphis and continued her blistering journalistic attacks on Southern injustices, being especially active in investigating and exposing the fraudulent “reasons” given to lynch black men, which had become common in the 1890s. Born a slave and a former school teacher, Wells became a national figure in the anti-lynching movement and wrote “Southern Horrors: Lynch Law in All Its Phases.” She also became a tireless worker for women’s suffrage and joined in the famous 1913 march for universal suffrage in Washington, D.C. Throughout her life, she continued her passionate advocacy against lynching and for women’s rights. In 1930, a year before her death, she ran for a seat in the state legislature, becoming one of the first African American women to stand for public office. — Lee D. Baker, published by Women’s eNews

Opening the Way features Wells as our 16th stop marking her connection to Cedar Street in downtown Manhattan. This was the location of T.T. Fortune’s New York Age, an African-American and influential newspaper, where her article was published after the office of her own paper Free Speech was attacked in retaliation to her investigation and reporting on the lynching of black men accused of raping white women.

To hear how Ida B. Wells’ described this moment in her life, watch Carol Jenkins reading Wells’ words:

Carol Jenkins is a writer, producer, and Emmy award-winning former television anchor and correspondent. She spent 30 years with news departments throughout New York City, hosted her own daily talk show, and was also president of the Women’s Media Center, a nonprofit advocacy organization that works to make women visible in the media. She is especially well-known for the 23 years she spent with WNBC-TV in New York, where she co-anchored the 6:00 newscast. Her talk show was called Carol Jenkins Live and was shown on WNYW-TV. Jenkins is the author, with her daughter Elizabeth Gardner Hines, of Black Titan: A.G. Gaston and the Making of a Black American Millionaire, which was chosen by the Black Caucus of the American Library Association as one of the best books of 2004 in non-fiction. She is currently working on another book, and her articles have appeared in various journals and anthologies. She has served on the boards of the Feminist Press and the Ms. Foundation for Women. 

Ida B. WellsTo learn more about Wells and her accomplishments see Our History page at womensenews.org

And to join Women’s eNews for our women’s history walking tour featuring Wells, contact us at 212-244-1744 or openingtheway@womensenews.org

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