Ida B. Wells-Barnett
Fighting for Black Security
Ida B. Wells-Barnett threw herself and her powerful command of language into many causes, but they all reflected a desire for safe and secure Black homes. Born with a slave status during the Civil War and losing her parents due to a yellow fever epidemic at 16, she had a keen sense of the fragility of Black life in a white supremacist society. In 1884, Wells filed a lawsuit for unfair treatment after she was forcibly removed from a first-class train despite holding a paying ticket. She channeled her frustration about segregation into writing as a prolific newspaper reporter and owner—criticizing racial discrimination and Jim Crow policies.
After her friend Thomas Moss and two other Black businessmen were lynched, Wells began investigating other racial terror lynchings and writing about the injustice in her newspaper. As she reasons, “There is therefore only one thing left to do; save our money and leave a town which will neither protect our lives and property, nor give us a fair trial in the courts, but takes us out and murders us in cold blood when accused by white persons.” Angered by these editorials, a white mob destroyed her newspaper office and she likely only survived because she was out of town. Wells did not return to Memphis, but continued to focus on documenting and describing the high rates of lynching since the issuance of the Emancipation Proclamation. In 1895, she married Ferdinand Barnett, a prominent civil rights activist, journalist, and attorney in Chicago, with whom she had four children. The couple’s Chicago home became a dual living and work space—with parental responsibilities happening concurrently with Wells-Barnett’s crusade against white supremacy. In 1910, she provided a home space for other African Americans by founding the Negro Fellowship League—initially providing rooms for Black men but evolving into a center for Black uplift, social interaction, and activism.
Wells-Barnett Funeral Program
A program from Wells-Barnett’s funeral after she died in Chicago of kidney disease on March 25, 1931.
Courtesy the Amistad Research Center
Requiescat in Pace
Tuesday March 24th, 1 a. m.
Ida B. Wells – Barnett
“Mother of Colored Womens Clubs”
at Dailey Hospital heard the
“Well done thou good and faithful servant”
and folding the mantle of her couch about
her – “lay down to pleasant dreams”
Funeral Services, Monday, March the thirtieth
at Metropolitan Community Center
4100 South Parkway
Dr. Joseph M. Evans, pastor officiating, with
Rev. J. C. Austin, pastor of Pilgrim Baptist Church, and
Mrs. Mary E. Clarke assisting
“Blessed are they who die in the name of Lord”
Ida B. Wells Womans Club
Miss Lillian Talbert, Vice-President
Mrs. Hattie Holliday, Sec. Mrs. Bessie Johnson, Chm.