Ida B. Wells stands as one of the most accomplished figures in African-American history, becoming a champion of women’s and civil rights. Having been described as an unsung hero for so many years for being overtaken by other popular figures of the civil rights movement, the interest in her life and legacy in recent years has grown.
Wells was born to enslaved parents in the town of Holly Springs on July 16, 1862, a year before President Abraham Lincoln would sign into effect the Emancipation Proclamation.
Having to drop out of college after the death of her parents to care for her family, she found work as a schoolteacher with an all-Black elementary school. During her summer breaks from teaching, Wells attended Fisk University.
She was presented with an opportunity to write for a series of Black-owned newspapers with a focus on race issues. In 1889, she became the co-owner of the “Free Speech and Headlight” newspaper, which had an anti-segregationist angle.
A tragic event in 1892 would define Wells’ career: The lynching of her friends, Thomas Moss, Calvin McDowell, and Henry Stewart, who all owned the People’s Grocery Store, angered her and sparked her to investigate other similar lynching cases.
She travelled for months alone in the south, researching and conducting interviews on approximately 700 lynchings from previous years. Her aim was to question the narrative at the time that said that black men were lynched because they raped white women.
Her findings revealed that rape was never the case, instead, there had been a consensual interracial relationship. Wells realized that lynching was used as an excuse to do away with black people who were acquiring property and wealth and to sow fear into them.
She published these findings in several editorials in the newspaper she co-owned and edited, The Memphis Free Speech and Headlight.
Wells’ legacy as a devoted journalist and civil rights activist remains potent as ever, standing as America’s most vocal leader against the heinous practice of lynching.
To commemorate her birthday, Face2Face Africa shares with you 10 of her greatest quotes.
Scroll through to read in no particular order: