10 Facts you didn’t know about activist Ida B. Wells

Many history books include Ida B. Wells as an influential person and activist during both the civil rights movement and women’s suffrage, but to celebrate her 153rd birthday on July 16th, let’s learn ten facts that maybe you didn’t already know.

1. Wells was born a slave in 1862 until the Emancipation Proclamation freed her and her family six months later.

2. Wells attended Shaw University (Now Rust College) but was shortly expelled after a heated argument with the college president got the best of her.

3. Wells, not Rosa Parks, was actually the first one to refuse to give up her seat for civil rights. It took the conductor and two other men to pull her off her seat in a train. Rosa Parks’ similar demonstration on a bus came 71 years later.

4. When writing about race in The Living Way Weekly newspaper, Wells donned the pen name “lola.” Her articles about racial injustices became quite popular during the 1890’s.

5. Ida B. Wells was one of the first women to keep both her and her husbands last name when marrying Ferdinand Barnett in 1895.

6. Her friend Thomas Moss and two other men were victims of lynching in Memphis which catapulted her focus towards an anti-lynching campaign.

7. Wells wrote two successful pamphlets about such: “Southern Horrors: Lynch Law in All Its Phases” and “The Red Record: Tabulated Statistics and Alleged Causes of Lynching in the United States.” 

8.  Although there was much in common between W. E. B. Du Bois and Ida B. Wells, there were often many rumors about conflicts between the two.

9. In 1898, she led her anti-lynching campaign to protest in front of the White House calling onto President McKinley to make more social reforms.

10. In addition to helping women as well, Ida met up with  President Wilson years later to make laws regarding anti-discriminatory hiring practices for government positions.


Happy 153rd Birthday Ida B. Wells! Thank you for all that you have done!

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