Ida Wells, born in Mississippi in 1862, was an anti-lynching crusader, suffragist, women's rights advocate, teacher, journalist, and speaker. She also campaigned for racial equality in the United States Army during the First World War. Ida's parents were slaves but the family achieved freedom in 1865. She attended Fisk University in Memphis. Ida held str
ong political opinions and views on women's rights. Ida created a stir in 1913 when she refused to march at the back with other black delegates during a demonstration organized by the National American Women Suffrage.
Ida became a public figure in Memphis in 1884 when she led a campaign against segregation on the local railway. After being forcibly removed from a white's only carriage she successfully sued the Chesapeake, Ohio & South Western Railroad Company. However, this was overturned three years later by the Tennessee Supreme Court. In 1884 Ida began teaching in Memphis. When she criticized the Memphis Board of Education for under-funding African American schools, she lost her job as a teacher.
Ida used her savings to become part owner of Free Speech, a small newspaper in Memphis. In March of 1892, three African American businessmen were lynched in Memphis. When Ida wrote an article condemning the lynchers, a white mob destroyed her printing press. They declared that they intended to lynch Ida, but fortunately she was visiting Philadelphia.
In 1894 Ida married Ferdinand Barnett, the founder of the Conservator, the first African American newspaper in Chicago. The couple had four children. Ida was also one of the founders of the NAACP in 1909. At the first conference of the NAACP she successfully persuaded the organization to resolve to make lynching a federal crime. After her retirement, Ida wrote her autobiography, Crusade for Justice (1928). Ida Wells-Barnett died of uremia in 1931.
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