Ida B. Wells: A Woman with a Passion for Justice

153 years ago today, Ida was born into slavery in Holly Springs, Mississippi, just before President Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation, 1863.

“Nowhere in the civilized world save the United States of America do men, possessing all civil and political power, go out in bands of 50 and 5,000 to hunt down, shoot, hang or burn to death a single individual, unarmed and absolutely powerless,” she wrote. “We refuse to believe this country, so powerful to defend its citizens abroad, is unable to protect its citizens at home.”  –Ida B. Wells

Wells was known for her rally cry, “The way to right wrongs is to turn the light of truth upon them.”

Ida B Wells

In 1893 she wrote an article called the Lynch Law about how black men would be falsely accused of assaulting or attempting to assault white women:

“The men who make these charges encourage or lead the mobs which do the lynching. They belong to the race which holds Negro life cheap, which owns the telegraph wires, newspapers, and all other communication with the outside world. They write the reports which justify lynching by painting the Negro as black as possible, and those reports are accepted by the press associations and the world without question or investigation. The mob spirit had increased with alarming frequency and violence. Over a thousand black men, women and children have been thus sacrificed the past ten years. Masks have long since been thrown aside and the lynchings of the present day take place in broad daylight. The sheriffs, police, and state officials stand by and see the work done well. The coroner’s jury is often formed among those who took part in the lynching and a verdict, “Death at the hands of parties unknown to the jury” is rendered. As the number of lynchings have increased, so has the cruelty and barbarism of the lynchers. Three human beings were burned alive in civilized America during the first six months of this year (1893). Over one hundred have been lynched in this half year. They were hanged, then cut, shot and burned.”

In 1884, 70 years before Rosa Parks, Wells was asked by a conductor on the Chesapeake & Ohio Railroad Company in Memphis to give up her seat to a white man; she refused, was thrown off the train and successfully sued.

Ida B. Wells used her gift of writing, speaking and organizing to help shed light on injustice. She was extremely brave and held steadfast to her convictions despite being criticized, ostracized and marginalized by her contemporaries.

A salute to Google for an in depth insight on her biography today.  See:  Google birthday doodle  


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