This Day in Black History: July 16, 1872

Journalist Ida B. Wells-Barnett

This Day in Black History: July 16, 1872

Ida B. Wells-Barnett, the African American journalist, newspaper editor and civil rights leader, was born.

Published July 16, 2012

(Photo: R. Gates/Hulton Archive/Getty Images)

Ida B. Wells-Barnett was one of the most outspoken leaders of the civil rights movement at the end of the 19th century and the 20th century. She was a staunch crusader against lynching, which was prevalent in those years. She was active in the women's rights and the women's suffrage movements and established a number of notable women's organizations.

When a train conductor ordered Wells-Barnett to give up her seat and move to the smoking car, she refused — 71 years before the activist Rosa Parks showed similar resistance on a bus. The conductor and two men dragged her out of the car. When she returned to Memphis, she hired an African-American attorney to sue the railroad. From then on, she was active in civil rights.

Wells-Barnett became a public figure in Memphis when she wrote a newspaper article for The Living Way, a Black church weekly, about her treatment on the train. When her lawyer was paid off by the railroad, she hired a white attorney. She won her case later that year, when the local circuit court granted her a $500 settlement. In the years that followed, she became well known as a journalist (she was the first Black woman to be a paid correspondent in Europe), editor and, with her husband, newspaper owner Ferdinand L. Barnett, an early leader in the civil rights movement. She died in 1931.

BET National News - Keep up to date with breaking news stories from around the nation, including headlines from the hip hop and entertainment world. Click here to subscribe to our newsletter.  

Written by Jonathan P. Hicks


Latest in news