Women’s History Month: Ida B. Wells
Today we share a story in celebration of Women’s History Month focusing on Ida B. Wells.
Ida B. Wells served as one of the founding members of the Niagara Movement and later the NAACP in 1909. Born in 1862 in Mississippi, her parents who were slaves died along with a younger sibling when Wells was fourteen. Well continued her education at Rust College before moving to Memphis where she worked as a school teacher and raised her younger sisters with the help of an aunt. In 1884 she brought a suit against a Memphis railroad company for violation of the 1875 Civil Rights Act banning discrimination on the basis of race in public transportation. The case went to the U. S. Supreme Court before Well’s lost. The experience launched a career in journalism as request for her personal account poured in from newspaper editors. In 1889 she became a partner in the paper Free Speech and Headlight. So what’s the food angle? In 1892 Well’s three friends—Thomas Moss, Calvin McDowell, and Henry Stewart operated the People's Grocery Company that took customers white owned grocery stores in Memphis. In response the latter group tried to attack the People's Grocery Company but Moss, McDowell, and Stewart fought back shooting one of the assailants. Local officials arrested and jailed Well’s friends. Thereafter a lynch mob broke into the jail and killed the three men before the start of a trail. Wells interviewed the three men in jail and did further investigations which she published in her paper Free Speech and Headlight. African American newspapers across the country republished her articles. Threats on her life in Memphis led her to migrate to Chicago where she continued her anti-lynching activism and where she started several progressive organizations.