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Ida Bell Wells-Barnett (Wells)

Also Known As: "Iola"
Birthplace: Holly Springs, Marshall County, Mississippi, United States
Death: March 25, 1931 (68)
Chicago, Cook County, Illinois, United States
Place of Burial: Chicago, Cook County, IL, United States
Immediate Family:

Daughter of James Madison Wells and Elizabeth Wells
Wife of Ferdinand Lee Barnett
Mother of Alfreda Marguerita Duster; Ida B Barnett; Herman Kohlsaat Barnett and Charles Barnett
Sister of Stanley Wells; George W. Wells; James Wells; Eugenia Wells; Eddie Wells and 3 others

Managed by: Ailene Nechelle House
Last Updated:

About Ida B. Wells

Ida Bell Wells-Barnett
(July 16, 1862 – March 25, 1931)
She was an American investigative journalist, educator, and an early leader in the civil rights movement.

Ida B. Wells-Barnett was an activist, writer, and teacher.

Born a slave in 1862, she first became prominent in the 1890's because she brought international attention to the lynching of African Americans in the south.
She wrote editorials challenging Jim Crow laws, using the pseudonym Iola.
She was one of the founders of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) and she helped launch the NACW (National Association of Colored Women).
She actively campaigned for women's suffrage.
Over the course of a lifetime dedicated to combating prejudice and violence, and the fight for African American equality, especially that of women, Wells arguably became the most famous black woman in America.

Ida married attorney and newspaper editor Ferdinand L. Barnett in 1895.
Headlines read: "June 29.Ida B. Wells, the famous colored lecturer, was married last night to Ferdinand L. Barnett, a colored attorney of Chicago, who is president of the anti-lynching league."

Born into slavery in Holly Springs, Mississippi, Wells was freed by the Emancipation Proclamation during the American Civil War.
At the age of 16, she lost both her parents and her infant brother in the 1878 yellow fever epidemic.
She went to work and kept the rest of the family together with the help of her grandmother.
Later moving with some of her siblings to Memphis, Tennessee, she found better pay as a teacher.
Soon, Wells co-owned and wrote for the Memphis Free Speech and Headlight newspaper.
Her reporting covered incidents of racial segregation and inequality.

In the 1890s, Wells documented lynching in the United States through her indictment called "Southern Horrors: Lynch Law in all its Phases," investigating frequent claims of whites that lynchings were reserved for black criminals only.
Wells exposed lynching as a barbaric practice of whites in the South used to intimidate and oppress African Americans who created economic and political competition—and a subsequent threat of loss of power—for whites.
A white mob destroyed her newspaper office and presses as her investigative reporting was carried nationally in black-owned newspapers.

Subjected to continued threats, Wells left Memphis for Chicago.
She married and had a family, while continuing her work writing, speaking, and organizing for civil rights and the women's movement for the rest of her life.
Wells was outspoken regarding her beliefs as a Black female activist and faced regular public disapproval, sometimes including from other leaders within the civil rights movement and the women's suffrage movement. She was active in women's rights and the women's suffrage movement, establishing several notable women's organizations.
A skilled and persuasive speaker, Wells traveled nationally and internationally on lecture tours.

Wells arguably became the most famous black woman in America, during a life that was centered on combating prejudice and violence, who fought for equality for African Americans, especially women.


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Ida B. Wells's Timeline

July 16, 1862
Holly Springs, Marshall County, Mississippi, United States
Age 7
Holly Springs Ward 2, Marshall, Mississippi, USA
September 3, 1904
Chicago, Cook County, Illinois, United States
March 25, 1931
Age 68
Chicago, Cook County, Illinois, United States
Oak Woods Cemetery, Chicago, Cook County, IL, United States