Influential Women: Ida B. Wells

There are so many influential women who overcame obstacle after obstacle to help break through glass ceilings everywhere.  Her Campus Emerson has decided to spotlight some of the many influential women who have since passed away. Please take a moment to learn about the incredible women who have inspired our writers!

 

Ida B. Wells spent her life working tirelessly for the rights of African Americans, especially women of color  like herself. She was a journalist and activist born into slavery in 1862 in the midst of the Civil War. Her parents were adamant that she educate herself, so she enrolled in Rust University and eventually began teaching at just 14 years old. She relocated from her home state of Mississippi to Memphis, Tennessee, where her history as an activist truly began.

Although her country treated her as inferior, Wells always fought for what she knew she deserved. She sued a Memphis train company for removing her from her seat in a “colored” car, and while the Tennessee Supreme Court ruled against her, she won her case on the local level. While she was teaching, she began to write articles under a pen name that criticized the inequality in education for African American children, and she soon decided to make journalism a more permanent career for herself. She bought interest in a newspaper called Memphis Free Speech and created an editorial campaign against lynching, which was met with extreme outrage from the local white community.

From there, Wells was featured in various newspapers throughout the country and traveled to different states as a lecturer. In 1909, she helped found the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP), known for advocating for justice for African Americans. In 1913, she founded Chicago’s Alpha Suffrage Club, which could have been the first black woman suffrage group. In an era where white women did not care about helping black women gain the right to vote, Wells stands out as a prominent voice for African American women.

Ida B. Wells fought passionately for equality for black people, even when she was threatened by the white community around her. She made the causes of black women her own, and spoke for justice even when “women’s rights” only meant “white women’s rights.” Without her courage to speak up, America might look different from what it does today.