Ida Wells-Barnett

Wells-Barnett, Ida Bell

Ida Bell Wells-Barnett, 1862–1931, African-American civil-rights advocate and feminist, b. Holly Springs, Miss. Born a slave, she attended a freedman's school and was orphaned at 16. She moved (1880) to Memphis, taught in black schools, attended Fisk Univ., and became an editor and writer for two weekly newspapers. In 1884 she challenged railroad segregation, ultimately losing (1887) in Tennessee's state supreme court. Becoming a part owner of and reporter for the Memphis Free Speech and Headlight (1889–94), she campaigned against the inferior education available to African Americans. In addition, beginning in 1892, following the murder of a friend by a Memphis crowd, she became famous for her antilynching crusades (see lynching). Later that year a white mob destroyed her newspaper's office and threatened to kill Wells. She subsequently moved to New York, became part owner and writer for the New York Age, and again attacked lynching. Wells was also a strong advocate for women's rights, but differed with many other feminists in her insistence on racial justice. Settling finally in Chicago, she wrote for two newspapers, married lawyer Ferdinand Lee Barnett, wrote a book on lynching (1895), created social programs for young black men and women, and worked to improve race relations in the city.

See her autobiography (1970); T. Harris, ed., The Selected Works of Ida B. Wells-Barnett (1991); M. DeCosta-Willis, ed., The Memphis Diary of Ida B. Wells (1995); J. Jones-Royster, ed., Southern Horrors and Other Writings: The Anti-Lynching Campaign of Ida B. Wells, 1892–1900 (1996); biographies by L. O. McMurry (1999) and P. J. Giddings (2008); studies by M. I. Thompson (1990), L. S. Jimison, ed. (1994), P. A. Schechter (2001), and J. W. Davidson (2007).

The Columbia Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright© 2014, The Columbia University Press.

Selected full-text books and articles on this topic

To Keep the Waters Troubled: The Life of Ida B. Wells
Linda O. McMurry.
Oxford University Press, 1998
Ida B. Wells-Barnett and American Reform, 1880-1930
Patricia A. Schechter.
University of North Carolina Press, 2001
Against the Tide: Women Reformers in American Society
Paul A. Cimbala; Randall M. Miller.
Praeger Publishers, 1997
Librarian’s tip: "Ida Wells-Barnett and the African-American Anti-lynching Campaign" begins on p. 99
Great Women of the Press
Madelon Golden Schilpp; Sharon M. Murphy.
Southern Illinois University Press, 1983
With Pen and Voice: A Critical Anthology of Nineteenth-Century African-American Women
Shirley Logan Wilson.
Southern Illinois University Press, 1995
Librarian’s tip: Chap. 5 "Ida B. Wells"
Black Women in Nineteenth-Century American Life: Their Words, Their Thoughts, Their Feelings
Bert James Loewenberg; Ruth Bogin.
Pennsylvania State University Press, 1976
Librarian’s tip: "Ida Wells-Barnett" begins on p. 252
Brilliant Bylines: A Biographical Anthology of Notable Newspaperwomen in America
Barbara Belford.
Columbia University Press, 1986
Librarian’s tip: Chap. 6 "Ida Bell Wells-Barnett (1862-1931)"
The Social Gospel in Black and White: American Racial Reform, 1885-1912
Ralph E. Luker.
University of North Carolina Press, 1991
African-American Orators: A Bio-Critical Sourcebook
Richard W. Leeman.
Greenwood Press, 1996
Librarian’s tip: "Ida Bell Wells-Barnett: (1862-1931), Journalist, Civil Rights Activist, Antilynching Crusader" begins on p. 367
We Are Coming: The Persuasive Discourse of Nineteenth-Century Black Women
Shirley Wilson Logan.
Southern Illinois University Press, 1999
Librarian’s tip: Chap. 4 "'Out of Their Own Mouths': Ida Wells and the Presence of Lynching"
Equal Protection and the African American Constitutional Experience: A Documentary History
Robert P. Green Jr.
Greenwood Press, 2000
Librarian’s tip: Document 84 "Ida Wells Addresses the President (1898)"
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