Why should people care about Ida B. Wells-Barnett?


Ida B. Wells-Barnett was an important African American woman in history, but why should anyone care about her? Why was she so important? Wells-Barnett was a civil rights activist who wrote in newspapers to advocate against lynching, which is the widespread occurrence of mod justice killings, and racial discrimination. She was a journalist, activist, and researcher who battled against racism, sexism, and violence.

She was born into slavery during the Civil War. After the lynching of one of her friends, Wells-Barnett turned her attention to white mob violence. Her expose about an 1892 lynching enraged locals, who burned her press and drove her from Memphis. 1893-1894 she traveled to Europe, speaking about lynching in the American South. 1895, she published “A Red Record” which was a detailed account of lynching (lynching was the widespread occurrence of not legally authorized killings) in the U.S. Despite constant death threats, she still managed to push through in order to do all these incredible things and many more. 

Among other terrible things, the amount of attacks on journalism are rising, and they were exceptionally high in 2020. Most people don’t understand what it means when journalism is attacked which is understandable. Some examples of journalism being attacked include the flood of opinion and false information on the internet or any situation when our right of freedom of the press is violated.

Along with being a phenomenal journalist, Ida B. Wells-Barnett fought against racism, which we unfortunately still face even here, in the 21st century. An example of a recent discriminatory event happening today is that of the College Board. The College Board stripped down its A.P. curriculum for African-American studies due to heavy criticism from Florida Governor Ron DeSantis. These are the kinds of things people fought for back in 1954, and by committing actions like these we are taking a step back instead of forward.

Some additional things Wells did was establish the first black kindergarten, organize black women, and help elect the city’s first black alderman. The work she did paved the way for generations of black politicians, activists, and community leaders. When asked in an interview, history teacher, Stacy Fox, at Rosemont Middle School said, “It was incredibly brave of her to risk the lives of her and her family when she put herself out there like that and we should all know a lot more about her than we do.”  She is our past and we are her future, so let’s make her proud.