A snapshot biography of Ida B. Wells

“I am only a mouthpiece through which to tell the story of lynching and I have told it so often that I know it by heart. I do not have to embellish; it makes its own way.” 

Ida B. Wells-Barnett, circa 1893
Ida B. Wells-Barnett, circa 1893


Ida B. Wells was sixteen years old when her parents and a younger brother passed away from yellow fever in 1878. As she coped with their death, Ida also challenged family members who wanted to split her and five younger siblings across foster homes. She took a job teaching and, with the support of her grandmother, took care of all the children.

With time, teaching evolved into writing. Ida became a journalist, writing about racial segregation and inequality. She was assertive, opinionated, not afraid to be controversial. She followed a belief that “the way to right wrongs is to turn the light of truth upon them.”

As a journalist, she would have her office destroyed by a mob, her life threatened. She had to move for safety reasons, but she continued to write, challenging accepted norms with the truth. Amongst many efforts and accomplishments, she fought for racial and gender equality, became a co-founder of the NAACP, and was a mother to four children with her husband and two from his previous marriage.

Ida B. Wells with her children, 1909.
Ida B. Wells with her children, 1909.

“A snapshot biography of Ida B. Wells” sources:

Pich, Hollie. “Various, Beautiful, and Terrible: The Life and Legacy of Ida B. Wells-Barnett.” Australasian Journal of American Studies, vol. 34, no. 2, 2015, pp. 59–74. JSTOR, www.jstor.org/stable/44779734. Accessed 2 Nov. 2020. / https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ida_B._Wells / Photo by Mary Garrity, circa 1893 (Note: photo is restored – Wikimedia Commons) / Photo of Ida with her children – University of Chicago Library, Guide to the Ida B. Wells Papers 1884-1976 & Wikimedia Commons


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Click here to read a snapshot biography of another journalist, Ida Tarbell.

To cite:

A snapshot biography of Ida B. Wells.” Published by Historical Snapshots.