Political activist Ida B. Wells died at age 69.
(Photo: R. Gates/Hulton Archive/Getty Images)
Ida B. Wells, born a slave in 1862, lived a remarkable life until her death on March 25, 1931, fighting for equal rights for African-Americans and women.
Six months after her birth, the Emancipation Proclamation freed the nation's slaves. Life in Mississippi was challenging because of ongoing racially discriminatory practices, but Wells' family was one that stressed education. It was such a high priority, that when her parents and a sibling died from yellow fever, she was able to convince a school administrator that she was 18 and qualified to teach. The bold move enabled Wells to care for her remaining siblings.
Her activism began when she was forced off of a train traveling from Memphis to Nashville after refusing to move to a Blacks-only car. Wells, who had purchased a first-class ticket, sued the railroad. She won a $500 settlement but the state's Supreme Court later overturned the decision. Outraged, she began writing about politics and southern racial discrimination, while continuing to teach, and ultimately became a journalist and newspaper publisher. Issues she tackled included the state of segregated public schools, lynching, employment discrimination and other inequities. Her work put her in danger, however, it lead her to move to New York City, where she continued her activism.
Wells founded the National Association of Colored Women in 1896, was a founding member of the NAACP, ran for a seat in the Illinois state senate and worked with the National Equal Rights League.
She died of kidney disease in 1931, in Chicago.
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