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date: 15 December 2017

Wells-Barnett, Ida Bell

Abstract and Keywords

Ida Bell Wells-Barnett (1862–1931) was a journalist, civil rights spokeswoman, and civic organizer. She wrote and lectured about the plight of Blacks in the South, especially lynching. She founded the Alpha Suffrage Club of Chicago, the first Black women's organization of its kind.

Keywords: Ida Bell Wells-Barnett, journalist, women's club movement, Negro Fellowship League, NAACP, Alpha Suffrage Club of Chicago, Memphis Free Speech

Ida Wells-Barnett was a journalist, civil rights spokeswoman, and civic organizer. Born to slave parents in Holly Springs, Mississippi, she received a high school education at Rust College—a freedmen's school—and studied at Fisk University in 1884. After seven years as a teacher, Barnett was fired for giving newspaper exposure to the poor educational provisions for Black children in Memphis, Tennessee. Her journalistic career began in 1892, and she was co-owner of the Memphis Free Speech until the offices were destroyed by a mob in 1892. Despite this, she continued to write and lecture about the plight of Blacks in the South, particularly the lynching of Black men. Barnett's activity in the women's club movement led to the organization of a Black women's club in Chicago. A settlement house was maintained by the Negro Fellowship League— another organization that she founded in Chicago in 1908. As chairperson of the Anti-Lynching Bureau of the National Afro-American Council—a forerunner of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP)—she participated in the founding meeting of the NAACP. Another of her great concerns was women's suffrage, and Barnett founded the Alpha Suffrage Club of Chicago, the first Black women's organization of its kind. Barnett's A Red Record (1895) includes autobiographical material and data on lynching. See also Crusade for Justice: The Autobiography of Ida B. Wells (1970), edited by Alfreda Wells Duster.