Ida B. Wells fight for the dignity of Black lives continues across the country
History calls Ida B. Wells a suffragist, anti-lynching activist, journalist, fighter for democracy. She was all these things and more. Born into slavery in 1862 in Holly Springs, Mississippi, she defied the laws of white supremacy, challenging the railroads in the courts in 1884 because she wanted her seat in the “ladies” car of the train, not the “Jim Crow” car. The co-owner and editor of the Free Speech and Headlight (later the Memphis Free Press), one of the country’s early Black newspapers, Wells was a fiery journalist.
When her friends – Thomas Moss, Calvin McDowell, and Henry Stewart – the owners of the People’s Grocery in Memphis were lynched she decried the lynchings calling them “cold blooded murders.” Her offices were destroyed but her life’s work was still in its early years.
Wells traveled the south investigating and reporting on lynchings. In 1909, in an address to the National Negro Conference, the forerunner to the NAACP (an organization she helped to found), Wells made clear her position:
“Agitation, though helpful, will not alone stop the crime. Year after year statistics are published, meetings are held, resolutions are adopted and yet lynchings go on…The only certain remedy is an appeal to law. Lawbreakers must be made to know that human life is sacred and that every citizen of this country is first a citizen of the United States and secondly a citizen of the state in which he belongs.”
The activism, research, and dedication of Ida B. Wells is continued by yet another generation. Today our cell phones record police violence and brutality. Like Ida B. Wells activists, journalists, lawmakers, and attorneys are dedicated to telling the truth of violence that terrorizes Black people and communities. Her words echo into history with the George Floyd Justice in Policing Act of 2020 bill seeking a national remedy to locally occurring discriminatory policing and violence.
And monuments and memorials rise in her honor. In Chicago, $300,000 was raised for a monumental sculpture in Bronzeville, the Chicago neighborhood where she lived, worked and raised her family. She is honored with the Ida B. Wells Memorial Grove at The National Memorial for Peace and Justice in Montgomery Alabama. And Memphis, Tennessee is raising funds for a life-size statue to be placed on Beale Street and 4th Street near the location of her former offices. The goal is to repay a debt, to say thank you to Ida B. Wells for all she did to advocate for change in Memphis and across the country.
Learn more about the life of Ida B. Wells from her descendants https://ibwfoundation.org/ and plan how you want to honor her life and inspire your community. There’s taking down statues and monuments and there’s creating new ones.
We at Saad&Shaw are proud to be fundraising counsel to the Memphis Memorial Committee: Honoring Ida B. Wells. For more information contact: email@example.com or call Dr. LaSimba Gray @ (901) 832-1629.
Copyright 2020 – Mel and Pearl Shaw of Saad&Shaw – Comprehensive Fund Development Services. Let us help you find your way through this unknown time. Video and phone conferencing services always available. Call us at (901) 522-8727. www.saadandshaw.com.