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Ida B. Wells

Ida B. Wells (1862–1931) was an African American journalist, newspaper editor, and an early leader in the civil rights movement. Wells was born into slavery in Holly Springs, Mississippi, in 1862. The Emancipation Proclamation was passed about six months after her birth.

She was a journalist and publisher—an owner of the Memphis Free Speech and Headlight, in which appeared the first stories and editorials of her anti-lynching campaign. In retaliation, in 1892, a mob stormed the newspaper’s offices and smashed the equipment. Wells had already fled to Chicago and continued writing pamphlets and reports on lynching in America for the New York Age. She lectured across America and in Europe on the scourge of lynching.

In 1896, Wells formed the National Association of Colored Women. She was also a founding member of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) in 1909. She continued to work for civil rights and African American empowerment, forming a black suffrage organization in Chicago, the Alpha Club. In 1930, she ran, unsuccessfully, for a seat in the Illinois state senate.

In 2020, a special Pulitzer Prize was awarded to Wells for “her outstanding and courageous reporting on the horrific and vicious violence against African Americans during the era of lynching.”

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