Ida B. Wells was born into slavery in Mississippi when the Civil War was in its infancy. In the early years of her life, she and her family were freed after the war and then became active in Reconstruction Era politics.
Taught to value education, Ida went to Rust College, but was eventually expelled for starting an argument with the president of the university. While visiting her grandma, she learned that yellow fever had swept her hometown, taking both her parents and youngest brothers.
Instead of continuing to pursue education, Ida was left to care for sister and brothers. Together, they moved to Memphis where she began her career as an educator.
At this point her activism began to really take off. In 1884, Ida was refused a seat on a first-class train, even though she had a ticket. After filing a lawsuit against the train company, she saw victory in her local circuit but the decision was ultimately overturned in federal court.
Soon after one of her friends was lynched, causing her to focus on white mob violence. Her career as an investigative journalist took off as she researched why black men were lynched. Her writing was published in several newspapers’ columns as well as in a pamphlet, but it eventually led locals to drive her from Memphis. The threats continued and increased in severity, causing her to move to Chicago.
The women’s suffrage movement was taking off, and while Ida supported the cause, she was upset that the women involved ignored the problem of lynching. True to her nature, she would openly confront these women.
Because of this, she wasn’t active in any of the women’s suffrage organizations, but that didn’t stop her from staying active in the movement. Instead, she founded the National Association of Colored Women’s Club to address both women’s suffrage and civil rights.
In 1905, W.E.B. DuBois and William Monroe Trotter came to Niagara Falls and began the Niagara Movement. This annual meeting happened from 1905 to 1908 and Ida B. Wells was in attendance.
Though she isn’t listed as one of its founders, Ida B. Wells attended the events of what would become the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, or NAACP.
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