Ida B. Wells-Barnett

Mary Garrityc. 1893

Smithsonian's National Portrait Gallery

Smithsonian's National Portrait Gallery

Born Holly Springs, Mississippi

For nearly four decades, journalist, editor, and activist Ida B. Wells-Barnett waged a fearless campaign to end the scourge of lynching in America. The daughter of former slaves, Wells mounted a challenge to racial inequality in 1883 when she sued the railroad after being dragged from her seat for refusing to move to a segregated car. She began contributing articles to black-owned newspapers and became part owner and editor of the Memphis Free Speech and Headlight in 1889. When three black businessmen were lynched in Memphis in 1892, Wells vehemently denounced this atrocity and launched her anti-lynching crusade by investigating other lynchings and publishing her landmark treatise Southern Horrors: Lynch Law in All Its Phases. After marrying Chicago lawyer Ferdinand Barnett in 1895, Wells-Barnett continued her activism by founding anti-lynching societies and African American women's clubs, and joining W.E.B. Du Bois to oppose those who advocated compromise and accommodation.

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