Power Of The Written Word: Ida B Wells (1852-1931)
“I had an instinctive feeling that the people who have little or no school training should have something coming into their homes weekly which dealt with their problems in a simple, helpful way… so I wrote in a plain, common-sense way on the things that concerned our people.”
Ida B. Wells-Barnett paved the way for black journalists becoming a partner in the Free Speech and Headlight newspaper. “She stands as one of our nation’s most uncompromising leaders and most ardent defenders of democracy,”reports Duke University.
Before Rosa Parks refused to give up her seat on a bus, Wells refused to do so on a Memphis train in 1884. It was in Memphis where she first began to fight for racial and gender justice. When ordered into the smoking or “Jim Crow” car, she refused.
“I refused, saying that the forward car [closest to the locomotive] was a smoker, and as I was in the ladies’ car, I proposed to stay. . . [The conductor] tried to drag me out of the seat, but the moment he caught hold of my arm I fastened my teeth in the back of his hand…He went forward and got the baggageman and another man to help him and of course they succeeded in dragging me out,” she is quoted as saying.
She sued the railroad and won her case, but the railroad company appealed to the Supreme Court of Tennessee, and her victorious ruling was overturned.
After three of her friends were lynched, she focused her efforts on an anti-lynching movement. She was one of the founding members of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) and later ran for the Illinois State legislature, making her one of the first Black women to run for public office in the United States.