History Bytes: Ida B. Wells

Vincent June Chappelle II

This week the Springfield and Central Illinois African American History Museum honors Ida B. Wells, a heroine in liberation.

Ida B. Wells was Born July 16, 1862 in Holly Springs, Mississippi, the oldest of six children born to Elizabeth “Lizzie” Warrenton and James Madison Well.

In September of 1878, Ida tragically lost her parents during the Yellow Fever epidemic. She worked to keep her siblings together by finding a job as a teacher at a Black elementary school near Holly Springs. After relocating to Memphis in 1884, Wells also taught in the Shelby county district through school year and attended summer classes at Fisk University in the summer.

In 1892, she began her life in journalism in efforts to call-out the injustices faced by Black citizens in Memphis and abroad. It was during this time that she became the target of white scrutiny. Thus compelling her to leave the south and head north to Chicago.

Shortly after arriving she met African American newspaper owner and Lawyer, Ferdinand Lee Barnett. They married in 1895 and would go on to raise four children while keeping their careers afloat.

Outraged by the 1908 terroristic attacks on Springfield’s Black community, Ida B. Wells once again voiced her feelings upon the treatment of our people in America. And in February of 1909 she would play significant role in the founding of the NAACP.

Ida not only continued to fight for the freedom of Black citizens throughout her life but also equality for all women worldwide.