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Ida B. Wells-Barnett: She Fought Against Racism and Lynching

Ida B. Wells-Barnett, known for much of her public career as Ida B. Wells, was an anti-lynching activist, a muckraking journalist, a lecturer, and a militant activist for racial justice. She lived from July 16, 1862 to March 25, 1931.

Born into slavery, Wells-Barnett went to work as a teacher when she had to support her family after her parents died in an epidemic. She wrote on racial justice for Memphis newspapers as a reporter and newspaper owner.

She was forced to leave town when a mob attacked her offices in retaliation for writing against an 1892 lynching.

After briefly living in New York, she moved to Chicago, where she married and became involved in local racial justice reporting and organizing. She maintained her militancy and activism throughout her life.

Ida B. Wells was enslaved at birth. She was born in Holly Springs, Mississippi, six months before the Emancipation Proclamation. Her father, James Wells, was a carpenter who was the son of the man who enslaved him and his mother. Her mother, Elizabeth, was a cook and was enslaved by the same man as her husband was. Both kept working for him after emancipation. Her father got involved in politics and became a trustee of Rust College, a freedmans school, which Ida attended.

A yellow fever epidemic orphaned Wells at 16 when her parents and some of her brothers and sisters died.

To support her surviving brothers and sisters, she became a teacher for $25 a month, leading the school to believe that she was already 18 in order to obtain the job.

In 1880, after seeing her brothers placed as apprentics, she moved with her two younger sisters to live with a relative in Memphis. There, she obtained a teaching position at a black school, and began taking classes at Fisk University in Nashville during summers.

Wells also began writing for the Negro Press Association. She became editor of a weekly, Evening Star, and then of Living Way, writing under the pen name Iola. Her articles were reprinted in other black newspapers around the country.

In 1884, while riding

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