James Wells' father was a white man who slept with a black slave named Peggy. Before dying, Wells' father brought him to Holly Springs at 18 years old to become a carpenter's apprentice where he developed a skill and worked as a "hired out slave living in town.
Biography of Ida B. Wells by Patricia A Schechter, Ph. Wells-Barnett ranks among the most important founders of modern civil rights and feminist movements among African Americans in the late nineteenth and early twentieth century United States.
Her importance is both intellectual and social; the ideas she expressed and organizations she helped organize have endured to this day. Her analysis of lynching in the s, especially of mob murder of black men wrongly accused of raping white women, has held up to the scrutiny of generations of scholars and activists, as have the organizations A biography of ida b wells helped shape: In her own day, however, she was frequently embattled.
Within black communities she was both celebrated and criticized for her outspokenness; outside black communities, she was often in physical danger for speech and behavior that was considered threatening to white supremacy.
Hers was a life of risk taking and rejection, of path breaking and reversals, a life she herself assessed as frustrated. What follows is a map to some of the innovations and backlash Wells-Barnett embraced during nearly a half century of activism, teaching, and writing in the interest of social justice.
Born in in Holly Springs, Mississippi to slave parents, she faced both new opportunities and new oppressions in coming of age after the end of slavery. Her mother, Elizabeth Warrenton Wells, worked as a cook and was a devout Methodist who made sure her children attended church, where she herself learned to read the Bible.
The yellow fever epidemic of took the lives of both James and Elizabeth and the youngest of the six Wells siblings. At that point, a sixteen-year-old Ida determined to keep the family together by earning money as a schoolteacher.
With the support of extended family and the resources left by her parents including a houseWells-Barnett headed a household in Holly Springs in a manner notable but not wholly unusual for rural and small town families in the late-nineteenth-century south, a context in which children were expected to contribute to family income and in which people married and set to housekeeping at relatively young age.
While reading aloud at home was common enough in Victorian family life, that a young Wells-Barnett read about and listened in on explicitly political issues at home in the volatile years of Reconstruction is significant. So, too, was the pressing need to secure financial stability among resourceful yet economically fragile free black communities.
The prospect of better wages and the presence of extended family soon drew Wells-Barnett to Memphis, Tennessee, some fifty miles from Holly Springs. There, her intellectual, social, and political horizons expanded in a burgeoning African American community notable for its highly accomplished middle-class and elite members.
Viable two-party politics, Republican patronage, and an ambitious business class promoted long-held aspirations for economic and political equality among Memphis blacks.
In addition to family and church, young people came together in newer urban spaces and institutions, like schools, clubs, lyceums, and places of culture and entertainment. The Baptist and African Methodist Episcopal AME churches were especially strong, and these congregations fostered activities — everything from public events to publications — that enabled the fresh articulation of values and ambitions.
Wells-Barnett was baptized in the Methodist Episcopal church in Holly Springs; she dedicated herself to teaching Sunday school in the AME church in Memphis, but frequently spent all day Sundays visiting and attending a number of different churches in town.
In this dynamic, close-knit environment, Wells-Barnett began writing, speaking, and even performing in plays in public, in church and in school-related venues in Memphis in the mids. Her themes ranged from Shakespeare to temperance and she relished developing a public persona that could connect with audiences in the interest of education, community-betterment, and artistic expression.
She even entertained the idea of writing a socially-conscious novel in these years, hoping to both make money and create socially useful art. In New South Memphis, she was a self-supporting woman tugged at by clashing trends of female equality and gender conservatism, new social freedoms and racial proscription.
She both witnessed and experienced the constructed nature of racial categories and the politics involved in enforcing them via segregation. Jim Crow public schools were an obvious case since she herself was a teacher; but she was also aware of the sexualized power dynamics in play as well.
Black women teachers were expected to bestow favors on white members of the school board in exchange for jobs. Likewise, a court case involving a local anti-miscegenation law was a set piece in the both arbitrary and political nature of defining who, exactly, was "black" or "white" and how the basic civil right of legal marriage was denied those who dared cross the color line respectably.
In print and in court, Wells-Barnett protested her exclusion from the category of "lady" when she was ejected from a first class railroad car in These trends created social and political tensions that peaked inthe height of lynching and the populist upsurge.
That spring, when three black Memphis shopkeepers had their store attacked and were themselves arrested and then brutally murdered by a mob, the ugly political economy of race was laid bare and Wells-Barnett said as much in the press.
Tennessee ranked second in the nation in with twenty-eight lynchings; nearly 4, people lost their lives to mobs in this era, three-fourths of them black. These severe social crises translated into an intense period of personal dislocation and political movement for her that culminated in her transatlantic campaign against lynching.
Nor was Wells-Barnett alone. A number of contemporaries who challenged the lynching-for-rape scenario and the sexualized racial politics underlying it, like Alexander Manly in North Carolina and Jesse Chisholm Duke of Alabama, were effectively exiled from the south for similar protests.
Well aware of the Duke case, Wells-Barnett wrote her editorial and essentially left town for safety, first for Philadelphia and then New York City. Outside the south, she began a public career in journalism and agitation that made her an internationally known figure.
Her pioneering anti-lynching work took place in the early s with speeches, organizing meetings, and the publication of a pamphlet series documenting the media distortions and exploding the racist justifications for lynching.
Although initially celebrated as a religious heroine — a "modern Joan of the race" — negative reactions to a black woman moving out of her place — out of the South, out of normative family life, and into the spotlight — precipitated a shift in gender expectations for African American women in organized reform.Alternative Titles: Ida Bell Wells, Ida Bell Wells-Barnett, Iola Ida B.
Wells-Barnett, née Ida Bell Wells, (born July 16, , Holly Springs, Mississippi, U.S.—died March 25, , Chicago, Illinois), African American journalist who led an antilynching crusade in the United States in the s.
Ida B. Wells was born into slavery in Holly Springs, Mississippi on July 16, Her father was a carpenter and her mother a cook. Her father was a carpenter and her mother a cook. They were slaves owned by man named Mr. Bolling. Watch video · 6 Fascinating Facts About 'Crusader for Justice' Ida B.
Wells In honor of journalist and activist Ida B. Wells' birthday on July 16, we look at her inspiring life and courageous fight for justice. 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. 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. Duster, one of the daughters of Ida B. Wells-Barnett and the editor of her mother’s autobiography, described her grandparents in the introduction to their book, “Her mother was a deeply religious woman whose convictions about the essential dignity of man developed under the cruelties of slavery.