“If it were possible, I would gather the race in my arms and fly away with them”, said Ida B. Wells-Barnett (Jim Crow Stories, 2002). The oldest of eight children, Ida B. Wells-Barnett was born in Holly Springs, Mississippi in 1862 to Elizabeth and James Wells (Podesta, 2016). James Wells was the son of his master and a slave woman (Podesta, 2016). Her mother was a cook and her father was a carpenter. Although Ida was born into slavery, education played importance to both Elizabeth and James. James served on the first board of trustees for Rust College, a school founded and run by Northern Missionaries (The Gale Group, 2016). They were both interested in politics and were active in the Republican Party during the Reconstruction, according to a PBS profile of Wells-Barnett (Cleary, 2015). Ida was born six months before Abraham Lincoln issued the Emancipation Proclamation, which freed the slaves.
Ida was on track to complete high school, her parents and youngest sibling died along with 301 other residents of Holly Springs in 1878 due to the yellow-fever epidemic (Podesta, 2016). Following their deaths, Ida moved to Memphis, Tennessee with her aunt, where she attended Fisk University. Ida began teaching at the age of fifteen to support her younger brothers and sisters following the death of her parents (Carlton-LaNey, 1998). At age 16, Wells-Barnett became responsible for her younger siblings. She also convinced the superintendent that she was eighteen years old and obtained a position as a teacher that paid her twenty-five dollars a month (The Gale Group, 2016).
In 1895, she married Ferdinand Barnett, who shared her passion for civil rights. They had four children. On March 15, 1931, Wells-Barnett died of kidney disea...
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Wells’ was a committed campaigner for the rights of both women and African American regardless of gender, she never surrendered one group for the other, or the black women who tenanted both (Thomas, 2011). “Her willingness to recognize the limited roles and opportunities for black women made her a “woman before her time,”” Ms. Mayes said (Polke, 2015). Her creation of the Women’s Era club, offered women, especially black women, a public environment from which to build much desired political characters (Thomas, 2011). Wells-Barnett stood as a “one-man army” when it came to defending women, whether she did it on her own or with others. Wells-Barnett was considered a radical in her time because she continuously voiced her opinions of race and gender and even the fact, she spoke up about the issues she faced as a Black woman that some were scared to. (Ana, 2015).
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