Ida B. Wells

A picture of the author Ida B. Wells

Ida Bell Wells-Barnett, better known as Ida B. Wells (1862 - 1931) was an African-American journalist, suffragist, feminist, and early leader in the Civil Rights Movement. She was one of the original founders of the NAACP (National Association of the Advancement of Colored People) in 1909. Born in Holly Springs, Mississippi, at a young age she lost her parents and a sibling during the Yellow Fever epidemic in 1878. She kept most of her siblings together with her grandmother's help, and went to work as a teacher in Memphis, where the pay was better.

Wells became a journalist and an activist, documenting that lynchings in the South in the 1890's were primarily intended to control or punish blacks who competed with whites, rather than as direct punishment for crimes, as many Southern whites claimed. Wells was active in the Women's Suffrage Movement, and toured internationally to give speeches about her convictions, supporting her claims with data that advanced the causes for which she was passionate.

Southern Horrors: Lynch Law In All Its PhasesAs Frederick Douglass remarked in a letter to her published in 1892:
"You give us what you know and testify from actual knowledge. You have dealt with the facts with cool, painstaking fidelity and left those naked and uncontradicted facts to speak for themselves."

We feature excerpts from her 1892 pamphlet, Southern Horrors: Lynch Law in All Its Phases. Douglass' letter is included in our African American Library.

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