Ida B. Wells, ca. 1895

Photograph by Cihak & Zima Studio, ca. 1895
hand-painted, single layer

Ida B. Wells (1862 – 1931) was an American investigative journalist, educator, and early leader in the civil rights movement. She was one of the founders of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP). Wells dedicated her career to combating prejudice and violence, and advocating for African-American equality—especially that of women.

Throughout the 1890s, Wells documented lynching in the United States in articles and pamphlets. Wells exposed the brutality of lynching, and analyzed its sociology, arguing that Whites used lynching to terrorize African Americans in the South because they represented economic and political competition—and thus a threat of loss of power—for Whites. 

Wells was outspoken regarding her beliefs as a Black female activist and faced regular public disapproval, sometimes including from other leaders within the civil rights movement and the women’s suffrage movement. She was active in women’s rights and the women’s suffrage movement, establishing several notable women’s organizations. 

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